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2020 Annual Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum

Registration is now open for 2020 forum! Check for more details on the schedule and speakers.
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Women in Leadership Forum Events

Gwen Sykes talking with an attendee at the Women in Leadership Forum

Registration Open!

Join us in celebration of Women's History Month at the Annual Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum on March 10, 2020 at the AU Washington College of Law. Check back for more details!
Register Today

2020 Annual Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum

For the 2020 Key Exeutive Women in Leadership Forum, Key will be partnering with the AU School of Public Affairs. Check back for more details on this event's schedule, speakers and more! 

Date & Location
March 10, 2020
11:30AM - 6:00PM
American University Washington College of Law

Tickets & Discounts
General Admission: $60 + fees
Current Graduate and Undergraduate Student Admission: $12 + fees
Key Programs Alumni Admission: $24 + fees
*For access to the discounted rates, please email You will be asked to verify your student or alumni status with a scan of your student ID.  

In honor of the many women who have dedicated their lives and work to government, public service, and leadership, Key Executive Leadership Programs hosts events to highlight the importance of women, inclusion, and unveiling unconscious bias.  

The inaugural forum, Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum, was held on April 11, 2018. Following up on July 2, 2018, the Power Presence for Women in Executive Leadership Forum with Janet Ioli had a sold-out audience as a Key faculty member and author shared great insights on empowering women in the workplace. 

The third installment of the Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum took place on March 19, 2019 at the American University Spring Valley Building. Following the theme - Resilience and the Future - sessions and speakers focused on cultivating personal resilience in the face of uncertainty and change in the federal workplace while examining the ever-evolving role of women in leadership and government.

You can read about all past events below or check out this article about the first ever Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum.

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Women in Leadership Forum Past Events

Past Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum Events

Resilience and the Future

March 19, 2019 Forum Review
American University Spring Valley Building

The third installment of the Key Executive Women in Leadership Forum took place on March 19, 2019 at the American University Spring Valley Building. Following the theme - Resilience and the Future - sessions and speakers focused on cultivating personal resilience in the face of uncertainty and change in the federal workplace while examining the ever-evolving role of women in leadership and government.

Dr. Ruth Zaplin, Executive-in-Residence, Key Exexcutive Leadership Programs

Dr. Ruth Zaplin WILF 2019Dr. Zaplin is an Executive-in-Residence in the School of Public Affairs, Department of Public Administration & Policy at American University (AU). She teaches courses in public sector leadership, organizational analysis, coaching for performance, managing conflict, and ethics.

For decades, Dr. Zaplin has also taught mindfulness practices—designed to foster employee engagement, wellness, and productivity—to hundreds of leaders across the federal government. Dr. Zaplin directs AU’s Key Executive Leadership coaching program and designs curricula for Key’s national and international leadership certificate programs.

Rochelle Howard at Women in Leadership Forum March 2019
In the current national environment, tensions are extremely high. Divisiveness and confrontation are the automatic reactions to many disagreements.  As leaders, how do we ensure our relationships foster a collaborative, forward thinking posture?  How do we lead with resilience and encouragement to promote sustainable working relationships?  

Many federal agencies have alternative dispute resolution programs to resolve workplace disputes.  Similarly, community mediation works to solve disputes but amongst the various community stakeholders.  This workshop will discuss the principles leaders can use to ensure organizational and community relationships persevere through the tensions.

Women and the Future with Diana Blithe, Kimya Lee and Terry Gerton, Moderated by Gwen Sykes

Panel Members in March 2019 Women in Leadership ForumResearch has shown women are more likely than men to face challenges in career advancement despite both groups reporting equal desire to succeed in their respective organizations.

This panel will examine current trends and cultures surrounding women in the workplace, evaluate unconscious biases and innovative policies, and discuss how women can be successful in the face of today’s challenges through resilience and vision.

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Administrator, USDA
Dr. Jacobs-Young Closing Remarks
Dr. Jacobs-Young is the Administrator of the ARS, USDA’s chief scientific in-house research agency, and currently also the Acting Chief Scientist of USDA. Prior to joining ARS, Dr. Jacobs-Young held several scientific leadership roles to help transform USDA’s scientific coordination and create a lasting impact on the conduct, quality, integrity, and access to science for customers, stakeholders, and partners. She has also worked to elevate the visibility of collaboration and coordination of agricultural research globally.  She is also a graduate of American University’s Executive Leadership in Public Policy Program, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a 2016 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award.


August 22, 2019
American University Washington College of Law

The second Women in Leadership for 2019 was held at the AU Washington College of Law, featuring two sessions and a plenary speaker. Participants worked with a team from Eagle Hill Consulting, one of Key's partners, to learn about trends in work culture and change manamgement and explored conflict resolution.  

Playbook for Change: Championing Effective Change Management in Federal Government

Much of an agency’s ability to meet its mission in today’s world hinges on its ability to change. How well do federal teams embrace change? Eagle Hill recently fielded research with Government Business Council to answer that question. Turns out, it may be time to redefine the playbook for how workplace teams in federal deliver change. This interactive session will share three critical elements of high-functioning teams that will help you create the playbook for winning at change today.

Federal organizations hire individuals of all generations, beliefs and backgrounds.  Understanding and having the necessary skills to practice conflict management strategies effectively is critical today more than ever. The research presented will address the basic strategies and skills to manage conflict, including developing conflict literacy, measuring conflict styles, building conflict management skills, and using conflict focused team building and interventions for practical application in the workplace.

Ellen McClain recently completed in January 2019, a three year term as a Special Assistant and rehired annuitant with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, returning to the agency where she began her government career more than three decades ago. Prior to retiring in 2015, she served the Department of Homeland Security as Deputy Assistant Secretary (Transborder Security) from 2012-2015 and as Assistant General Counsel (Enforcement) from 2003-2012. Ms. McClain was the Deputy Associate Chief Counsel (Enforcement) for the U.S. Customs Service from 1985-2002 and Deputy Assistant General Counsel (Enforcement) at the Department of Treasury. During her lengthy career, she received several awards from both the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Commissioner of Customs. She received the General Counsel’s Extraordinary Achievement in National Security or Homeland Security Law in 2008 and was nominated in 2003 for the Federal Bar Association’s Transportation Attorney of the Year for her contributions to setting up the Department of Homeland Security. In July, Ms. McClain joined InterVISTAS Consulting Inc as Vice President. She is serving as the President of Executive Women in Government. Additionally, she serves on the advisory board for Interages and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Ms. McClain holds degrees from Duke University, Vermont Law School, and Georgetown University Law Center.