Seventh Annual Women & Transformational Leadership Symposium

Lenora Dingus

March 24th, 2023
UPMC Events Center at Robert Morris University
1:15 pm - 6:30 pm EST
Please RSVP by March17th!

6001 University Blvd, Moon Twp, PA 15108, Enter through UPMC Gate 
Parking Directions

The Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program presents RMU’s Seventh Annual Women and Transformational Leadership Symposium. This full day event features women leaders in our region and topics that impact the region's move toward gender equity and the advancement of women.

This event is free and open to the public!
RSVP by March 17th to Reserve your Spot.


2023 Keynote Speaker | Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, MEd, MPPM, FACOG

Dr. Margaret Larkins-PettigrewSVP/Chief Clinical Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Allegheny Health Network/Highmark

Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew is an international diversity, inclusion and equity expert, healthcare strategist, clinical OB/Gyn, professor, author and maternal/infant health care equity advocate. She is the founder/CEO/President of JUSTWONDOOR, a nonprofit that aims to educate global medical providers through local and international health care collaborations.

Her passion for advocating for health equity and building programs that aim to improve outcomes for women, people of color, vulnerable and marginalized communities has been a common thread throughout her highly-respected 30-year career and commitment to ongoing service.

Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew is the author of The Colors of My Heart: Embracing My Blackness Through History, Family,Fear, and Faith.

Learn more and purchase The Colors of my Heart.

Learn more about Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew:

About The Colors of my Heart

Dr. Margaret Larkins-PettigrewDr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew









The Colors of My Heart is a courageously told story of the life of Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, an African-American mother and wife, an accomplished Obstetrician/Gynecologist, professor and leader in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. From a life of poverty growing up in the coal patches of Pennsylvania to a successful global health strategist, her discovery of self as a black women living in America exposes the double consciousness, micro and macro-aggressions and internal conflicts that challenges many minoritized individuals as they pursue their passion. She discusses the beauty and perils of color in the life of an African- American-in the larger society ,her community , her family and within her own heart. She invites you to embrace the legacy of slavery and segregation as an indelible reality in American History. "The fretting over the darkness or lightness of newborns in delivery rooms by well-meaning family members may inadvertently begin the degrading of our children's self-image and self -worth minimizing our links to their proud African past". Dr Larkins- Pettigrew keeps you wanting to read more as she vividly depicts her experiences through historical events of the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies and beyond. She relays many inspiring accounts of how the twists and turns and realities of politics, sexism, racism, drugs use and the criminal justice system can be triumphantly navigated with family and faith. The readers will be challenged to explore color through fear, pain, resilience, forgiveness and inspiration. The Colors of My Heart is a transparent and raw look at the complexities encountered by many African-Americans that should force us all to look within and examine the truth of our connectedness.


2023 Event Schedule

Friday, March 24th

WTJ Student Speaker Series

1:15 - 3:30 pm | Lunch and Networking, Opening Remarks, Student Speaker Series, Hall 5

  • 1:15 - 2:00 pm | Registration, Lunch, Networking, Hall 5
  • 2:00 - 2:15 pm | Opening Remarks + Featured Musical Performance, Hall 5
  • 2:15 - 3:30 pm  | WLMP Student Speaker Series, Finding Freedom in Failure, Hall 5

Please join us for this TedTalk inspired, student-led event. Students will share their ideas, projects, and areas of expertise around this semester’s theme Finding Freedom in Failure

Hosted by Natalee Calfo-Carroll WLMP, Student Leader and WLMP Cohort 7 Member.

Speakers TBA.

3:30 pm - 3:45 pm | Break

3:45 pm - 4:45 pm | Simultaneous Breakout Sessions (Choose one to attend!)

Session 1, Hall 2 | Panel: Passing the Mic, The Power of BIPOC  and Intersectional Storytelling in Pittsburgh

To become more effective leaders, individuals and institutions are reexamining their understanding of BIPOC  and historically marginalized communities experiences in the Pittsburgh region. Join a panel of storytellers and journalists for a rich discussion around the power of storytelling, how stories shape understanding of marginalized groups, and receive actionable takeaways on how to be an ethical and effective storyteller and ally.

  • This workshop is for leaders who want:
    • a more thorough understanding around the impact of ethical storytelling
    • to be more effective listeners and storytellers on behalf of the communities they serve
    • more knowledge of important stories surrounding BIPOC and historically marginalized communities in Pittsburgh
  • Panelists:
    WTJ Panelists
    • Alexis WalkerModerator | Alexis Walker
      • Director of GirlGov Programs- Women and Girls Foundation
    • Panelist | Talia Kirkland, MS
      • Reporter, WPXI
    • Panelist | Stephanie Strasburg
      • Photojournalist and Documentarian, PublicSource
    • Elina Zhang
      • Artist, JADED Collective
    • Panelist | Halle Stockton
      • Editor-In-Chief, Public Source
    • Panelist | TBA

Session 2, Hall 3 | Unleashing the Power of Women Leaders: The Intersection of Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Authenticity

Growing Your Enterprise: Best Practices for Women Leaders

In this workshop, we will explore the unique challenges and opportunities that women face as leaders, entrepreneurs, and agents of change. Drawing on research and personal experience, the speaker will share insights into how women can leverage their strengths, build their networks, and create sustainable organizations that make a positive impact in their communities. We will also address the importance of authenticity and values-based leadership, and highlight the ways in which women can cultivate their own unique brands and identities as leaders.

The workshop will also explore the unique challenges that women face in the business world, and provide strategies for overcoming these obstacles and building a successful , rewarding careers and a fulfilled, authentic life. Through interactive activities and group discussions, participants will have the opportunity to share their own experiences and learn from the insights and perspectives of their peers.

  • Melanie BoyerFacilitator | Melanie Boyer:
    • Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Speaker, Startup Advisor, Board Member & Aspiring Fund Manager
  • This workshop is for leaders who want to:
    • Strengthen their personal brand<
    • Grow their entrepreneurial spirit
    • Understand the impact of women-led businesses and institutions in the Pittsburgh region
    • Leverage their identity as a superpower, not a liability, to achieving their goals

5:00 pm - 6:30 pm | Networking Reception, Keynote and Q&A

  • 5:00 - 5:30 PM | Networking, Hors D'oeuvres, and Refreshments
  • 5:30 - 6:30 PM I Remarks, Keynote + Q&A
    • Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, MEd, MPPM, FACOG. SVP/Chief Clinical Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Allegheny Health Network/Highmark
2023 Speaker and Facilitator Bios

Dr. Margaret Larkins-PettigrewMargaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, MEd, MPPM, FACOG.

SVP/Chief Clinical Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Allegheny Health Network/Highmark

Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, MD, MEd, MPPM, FACOG, is an international diversity, inclusion and equity expert, healthcare strategist and maternal/infant health care equity advocate. She is the Senior Vice President and Enterprise Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for Allegheny Health Network / Highmark Health. As a practicing physician, she cares for women in her general OB/GYN practice, with a special interest in providing care for women living with HIV and those in under-resourced communities. Her passion for health equity and building programs that improve outcomes for women, people of color, vulnerable and marginalized communities has been a common thread throughout her highly-respected career and commitment to  service.

A professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology at Drexel University and founder and President of JustWONDOOR, a global health nonprofit specialty training organization, Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew continues to train and mentor learners focused on cultural humility in medicine. She is recognized nationally and abroad for her robust career and contributions as a sustainable and transformational change agent utilizing the Pillars of Internal Transformational Equity, a model created by Larkins-Pettigrew, LLC. Additionally, her research and insights are published by several health organizations and publications and she is a frequent speaker on healthcare strategy, DEI in the workforce and in our communities, women’s health and empowerment.

Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew has been featured as an expert and consultant on several platforms, including appearances on CNN, MSNBC and others. She is the recipient of many honors and awards for her work, including Crain’s Business Magazine “Woman of Note” award, the YMCA’s “Distinguished Woman” Awards (Pittsburgh and Cleveland) and a four-time Anthem Award winner. Additionally, the nurse turned clinician was named on Savoy Magazine's Most Influential Black Executives in Corporate America,  Becker Hospital Review's list of 75 Black Health Care Leaders to Know and Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Diversity Leaders list.

Dr. Pettigrew has a prestigious education and academic profile that includes several advanced degrees and  certifications, including clinical expertise and advanced training in leadership, strategic planning, diversity, equity and inclusion. She is also a proud Navy veteran holding the rank of lieutenant commander and the author of The Colors of My Heart: Embracing My Blackness with History, Family, Fear, and Faith.

Melanie BoyerMelanie Boyer

Executive Director of The Pittsburgh Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 

Melanie Marie Boyer serves as the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. A CALU and Duquesne University alumna, she is a Colombian & United States Citizen. Melanie is a devoted mom to two handsome young boys, ages 10 and 4. Mrs. Boyer is passionate about helping businesses to reach their full potential and getting funding into the underserved American entrepreneurial ecosystem. Her goal is to enable rapid success, defined as self-sustaining job and revenue-generating businesses that can improve underestimated communities and the region at large.

An entrepreneur at heart, she is a business owner, previously working in freelance marketing, production, recruiting, speech coaching and brand management, among other things. Melanie Marie was awarded the 2022 Latino Power 100 by the Latino Convention, 2022 Pittsburgh Magazine- Top Women in Business Award, 2022 Women of Influence Award from the Pittsburgh Business times, 5 Powerful Latinas in Pittsburgh by the New Pittsburgh Courier, 100 influential leaders to know in Pittsburgh tech by, the 2021 NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award, 2021 Distinguished Leader award by Pittsburgh Professional Women, and a 2021 Black History Achievement Award from The Pastors Wives of the Churches of God in Christ’s Second Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania for her work in the Hispanic community.

She further serves the community through being a participating member of the RAD advisory Board, WPXI Gets Real Advisory Board, Port Authority Stakeholder Advisory Group, Neighborhood Allies Asset Building Network, CCAC Community Equity and Diversity Council and the UPMC Community Health Partnership.

In all aspects of her life, Melanie Marie strives every day to be the catalyst of forward movement and positive growth, seeking progress, prosperity and positivity through partnership.

Follow Melanie on Linkedin

Alexis WalkerAlexis Walker

Director of GirlGov, Women and Girls Foundation 

Alexis Walker graduated from Robert Morris University in 2019 where she studied political science, women and gender studies, and earned a certificate in nonprofit management. Alexis is an educator, a political enthusiast, and most recently serving as the Program Manager for GirlGov. As a member of a marginalized community, she has seen firsthand how unequal access to education has acted as an immense barrier to opportunity and growth for our nation’s youth, instead of being the societal equalizer that it should be. Throughout her young adult life, she has always had the aspiration and passion to work for the betterment of marginalized communities throughout her volunteer and professional work. These aspirations really grew to encompass education reform following her study abroad experience in Morocco. After this experience, she realized that she wanted to permanently dedicate her personal and professional aspirations to the betterment of marginalized communities through the lens of education reform. At the time, she turned her attention to pursuing a career as an advocate within the legislative sphere of policy reform.

Talia KirklandTalia Kirkland, MS

Reporter at WPXI Channel 11 News 

Inquisitive and outgoing, Talia Kirkland is a Pittsburgh-based reporter, with a big personality and an even bigger heart. Committed to serving her audiences with balanced and fair news-- it is her goal to provide community members with empowering narratives, informed reports, and engaging content. Follow her on twitter @talia_kirkland as she reports on some of the latest news from the Pittsburgh region. Interested in more check out her latest reel at

Talia KirklandStephanie Strasburg

Award-Winning Photojournalist and Documentarian, PublicSource 

Stephanie Strasburg is a photojournalist and documentary filmmaker at PublicSource. Her recent work includes an investigation on sexual abuse in the Amish and Mennonite communities for which she and her fellow Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporters were named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and awarded a Mid-Atlantic Emmy. She is part of the team that received the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for coverage of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre. Her other projects examine the generational imprint of overdose, industry’s impact on Pennsylvania’s small cities and child poverty. A believer in photography’s ability to connect community, she serves as the education liaison for the Pittsburgh chapter of Video Consortium and is on a constant quest to pay it forward. More by Stephanie Strasburg

Halle Stockton

Editor-In-Chief, PublicSource 

Halle is the editor-in-chief of PublicSource. She served as managing editor for seven years and became editor-in-chief on May 9, 2022. Prior to that, Halle was a reporter for PublicSource for three years and for the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune for four years. In 2017, the Institute for Nonprofit News selected Halle as one of 10 Emerging Leaders in U.S. nonprofit journalism. Halle has won several awards for her journalism; most notably, she was named a 2016 finalist for the prestigious Livingston Awards for Young Journalists and earned a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2015. She is a graduate of the Leadership Development Initiative program in Pittsburgh and an alumna of the American Council on Germany’s Young Leaders program. The Erie, Pa., native is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, where she spent most of her time working at The Daily Collegian. Contact Halle with story tips and ideas as well as questions or concerns. More by Halle Stockton

PublicSource recently launched a comprehensive plan to deepen relationships with communities of color in Pittsburgh.

Talia KirklandElina Zhang 

Artist, JADED Collective 

Elina Zhang is an Asian-American writer and organizer based in Pittsburgh, PA, where she received a Creative Nonfiction Writing MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. She was a 2023 Roots. Words. Wounds Fellow and a 2022 Periplus Fellow. She is also a member of the JADED Asian American artists collective.

Talia KirklandJasmine Green

Jasmine Green, known as Black Girl Absolute, is a visual artist and poet born and raised east of Pittsburgh. Jasmine graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 with a Bachelor's in Psychology, Anthropology, and Africana Studies. She was the inaugural recipient of 2022's Exposure Arts Tongue River Arts Residency from the Pittsburgh Foundation, during which she began working towards her first book, A Field Guide for Blue Girls, which is expected to be published by the end of this year. She is the Director of Education at 1Hood Media, whose mission is to build liberated communities through art, education, and social justice.

Directions and Parking
Directions and Parking Map
About the WLMP: Empowering Women and Developing Leaders


The Women’s Leadership and Mentorship Program is a select program for 25 students each year that teaches leadership skills and provides opportunities that foster young women’s ability to contribute, lead, and engage in mutually beneficial mentoring relationships. The WLMP’s mission and vision is rooted in inclusive leadership, gender equity and the advancement of women.

Cohort members are each partnered with a one-on-one peer mentor and a faculty or staff mentor, and in their junior year, with a professional mentor. Special programs increase understanding of women in leadership, including both successes and challenges.

Support The Women's Leadership and Mentorship Program

Your gift of any amount will help cover the cost of the various events and programs that the young women attend during their four years at RMU.

Support The Women's Leadership and Mentorship Program