Visionary Sponsor REGIONS BANK Introduces Keynote Speaker, RISHA GRANT



Learn about Regions’  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices.


Regions Named Leader in Diversity by Birmingham Business Journal

Explore Region’s Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

A Message from John Turner (President and CEO) on Regions’ Commitment to Racial Equity

Careers and Opportunities





Risha shared a powerful message on the importance of diversity and inclusion. She encouraged us to be aware of our biases, to “turn our brains off auto-pilot and how we treat others different from ourselves.”

We are empowered because companies are no longer just checking a box on diversity and inclusion, they are looking for real and lasting change. We are moving from corporate social responsibility to corporate social equity.


Risha also championed several other important ideas:

              1. Stand in your power
              2. Do You: Be your authentic self
              3. Help to dismantle systems that are favoring some despite the exclusion of others
              4. Refine your focus: What is it you can do right now to make progress?


The future of the world is in our hands. We have to focus on equitable change. Look at yourself and see how you can create change, as one person. What are the policies in your workplace?

Humankind is interconnected, and honoring our diversity is the best way to expose that ideology. Our interconnectedness plays part in a better quality of life for all of us. How does your bias show up in your behavior? Racism is a human issue, and one that shows up daily in the lives of many of your friends and coworkers. Show love, embrace empathy, and be intentional about creating the change that produces equity.

As women, we carry a lot of burden and stress on our shoulders. Making change will not be easy, so remember to take care of yourself. Say “hell yes” to having fun and relaxation. Make sure mental health is intact and that we are having fun along this journey!

See these additional resources:

Risha Grant Website

“Risha Talks” (Vodcast)

“That’s BS! The Book”



Raquel Williams, Operation Implementation Manager for Alabama Power, reflects on her experience in Momentum’s  Executive Class 15.

One of the first things Raquel shared was how she experienced a phenomenon called imposter syndrome on the very first day of her Momentum class.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

She mentioned some professional tools that were crucial to her self-growth, emotional intelligence and exploration. These tools helped Raquel “fight back” against imposter syndrome.

Raquel reflected on vulnerability and how important it is for building trust. She mentioned two resources from Dr. Brene Brown on the topic:

Sympathy vs. Empathy

The Power of Vulnerability


Crissy Carlisle, Chief Investment Relations Officer for Encompass Health and a graduate of Momentum’s Executive Class 12, added her thoughts.

Crissy spoke first about leveraging your personal brand to develop executive presence. Momentum would like to share this book from the personal brand consultant we use to teach our executive class about the power of personal brand.


“Leader’s Edge: Using Personal Branding to Drive Performance and Profit”

Crissy also spoke about the difficulty many women experience at the negotiating table. Crissy mentioned Carol Frohlinger, the negotiation expert who guides Momentum’s executive classes through the art of successful negotiations.

Carol has authored two books and has additional resources on her website:

Negotiating Women Site

“Her Place at the Table: A Woman’s Guide to Negotiating”

“Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It

Crissy also reminded attendees of the Momentum mantra: just breathe. We all have extreme demands on our time; we must take a moment to focus on the breath is calming and centering. Crissy also urges viewers to engage in self-care and mindful meditation. We want to share this Momentum blog post on Meditation with you:

Making Sense of Meditation

Finally, Crissy spoke to the importance of giving back to the community, either through mentoring, volunteering, or philanthropy. If you’re looking for an outlet to invest your time and resources in the community, check out Momentum’s local mission partners for volunteer and giving opportunities.

Mission Partners

Momentum is currently accepting applications for the 2021-22 executive class. Over the course of a nine-month curriculum, Momentum develops leadership skills, confidence, and connections among Alabama’s most promising women. Learn more about the program and how to apply here.



The Upward Early-Career program leverages Momentum’s expertise and alumnae network to develop the next generation of talented leadership. Lynn Brown, Claims Processing Manager at BCBS of Alabama and Nan Wagner, Marketing Manager at Shipt joined us to reflect on their growth through Upward.



Nan shared how the Birkman assessment conducted at the beginning of the class really helped her understand how to better communicate with others based on the results of the assessment.

Birkman: Rise to Lead

Nan also shared lessons learned from Dr. Julie McDonald and Dr. Lisa Graham on understanding personal values and developing an authentic leadership style.

Do Your Actions Reflect Your Values?

Lynn shared how important it has been for her to increase her emotional intelligence…being aware of one’s own emotional tendencies and how they impact others. Now, when she is in meetings, Lynn spends a lot of time observing her peers, listening more than she talks, and stays really engaged in order to develop strong working relationships.

“We don’t grow from our experiences, we grow from how we reflect on our experiences,” Lynn said. Momentum encourages leaders to make time for reflection, journal about their experiences, and remember mindfulness.

Finally, Lynn shared the importance of being intentional and prepared for networking opportunities.

Below are links to a few resources we love on developing emotional intelligence, reflection, and strong networking skills.

Emotional Intelligence 2.o

EQ: The Key to Leadership Success

Effective Journaling

How Leaders Create and Use Networks



Mindy Santo, Momentum’s Mentoring Coordinator shares about program highlights. Mindy invited Monique “Mo” Shorts (mentor) and Leema Lutfi (mentee) to share what has made their mentoring experience successful.



Monique had three tips to share with our audience on structuring a successful mentor/mentee relationship:

Tip 1: Decide exactly what the two of you will be working on.

Tip 2: Decide how long the initial engagement will be, then decide where and when you will meet.

Tip 3: Don’t worry about doing it right! Momentum has great resources for you.

Leema shared a few tips from the mentee experience:

Tip 1: Focus on specific things.

Tip 2: Make the ask! Identify someone who is good at the things you want to work on, and just ask.

Tip 3: Be open to receiving advice. Resist the urge to defend your past actions; instead, thank your mentor for their counsel by saying something like, “thanks, I can see how that could be helpful.”

Tip 4: Do the work. When your mentor suggests resources or a new contact for you, follow through by exploring those, and circle back with your mentor on what you learned.


Mentoring Program

Request a Mentor Form

Become A Mentor

Meet Joy and Coleysia, another mentoring experience shared


Katherine Thrower, Momentum Logistics Manager, explored resources for intentional career development with three of our favorite local facilitators: Rene Washington, Dr. Julie McDonald, and Dr. Lisa Graham.

These guests shared several of their favorite podcasts, as well as their own websites and Rene’s book. You’ll find a gateway to much more leadership content here:


Here are their websites and a link to Rene’s book:

Rene Washington: Choose the Life You Envision

“Take the Trip!” by Rene Washington

McDonald Graham: Psychology at Work


All three women have been guests on the Momentum Matters podcast, as well as facilitators of valuable webinars over the past year, which are posted to the Momentum YouTube channel and are free to watch! Dr. Julie McDonald elaborated on the topic of her Momentum Matters podcast: the connection between our mental health and the physical manifestations that occur when we are under mental stress. She stressed the importance of eliminating negative self-talk by becoming aware of it and replacing negative thought with fact-based positive one. Sleep, healthy eating, and exercise have to have priority in our lives for our minds to work well. One particularly useful thought Julie shared is on the topic of self-care. Many of her clients have the idea that self-care is selfish. As women we often put others’ needs ahead of our own. Julie defines the difference between self-care and being selfish like this:

“Selfish is putting your own wants ahead of other people’s needs. Self-care is putting your needs ahead of other people’s wants.”


Rene encourages her clients to seek mental help when necessary, ask yourself “are your feelings feeding facts.”

Subscribe to the Momentum Matters Podcast

Subscribe to Momentum Leader’s Youtube Channel 

Lisa and Rene also suggest these podcast and video resources:

Brene Brown podcasts

“Women at Work”

TED’s “How to Be A Better Human”

NPR Hidden Brain

Our guests shared their websites, which we encourage you to explore!

McDonald Graham

Career Triage HQ




Rich Bielen, President and CEO of Protective Life, and Nancy Kane, EVP of Acquisitions and Corporate Development at Protective Life, had a conversation about the Men with Momentum Advisory Board as well as how men can be more effective allies for women. 


Some key take-aways from that conversation:

  • We all have a responsibility to be better allies. We must advance a work environment where each person feels welcomed, respected, valued and heard. We must build trust with one another, create a sense of belonging and demonstrate we value all people as individuals.
  • As an ally, you need to use your voice, own your mistakes and be proactive in your education, every day.
  • We must continuously work towards unpacking unconscious bias. We must discover our unconscious bias and understand how this can impact culture and our effectiveness as teammates.
    If we get these things right it, it will advance change.
  • As far as how men specifically can be better allies, in addition to constantly checking for our own unconscious bias, we need to help others around us see their blind spots. When someone makes an inappropriate comment, or the conversation drags on too long in a direction that leaves others out, we need to be aware enough, intelligent enough, and brave enough to say something, to change the conversation, and ensure that everyone has a seat at the table and every voice is heard.
  • Take advantage of any opportunity to demonstrate visible commitments to diversity, inclusion and equity.



Dr. Mia Cowan, founder of MiBella Wellness Center,  introduced our second keynote speaker, Robyn Benincasa.

In case you missed it in your virtual “swag bag,” here’s the link to Dr. Cowan’s e-book on wellness.

25 Secrets to Live Well, Age Beautifully



World Champion Eco-Challenge Adventure Racer, New York Times Bestselling Author, Founder of the 501c3 Project Athena Foundation (Survivors to Athletes!), 3x Guinness World Record Distance Paddler, Proud Owner of 2 Metal ‘Bionic Hips’ and Full Time San Diego Firefighter Robyn Benincasa *definitely* knows a thing or two about creating Human Synergy—or as Robyn puts it, “that magic that allows groups of ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things together.”




For the last 20 years, she and her teammates have been competing at the front of the pack in the most unique and compelling classrooms on earth–The jungles of Borneo, the Himalayan peaks of Tibet, the rivers of Fiji, the rainforests of Ecuador and the desert of Namibia, studying the good, the bad, and the not-so-pretty in Extreme Teamwork and mastering the skills required to inspire a group of semi-exhausted people through a seemingly endless series of checkpoints, in pursuit of a seemingly impossible goal, working against crazy deadlines, in constantly changing conditions and all in pursuit of a huge hairy audacious goal (sounds a lot like your life as a business leader, right?!




Robyn shared her thoughts on how we, as leaders, continue to “adapt, overcome, and win” in a world of constant change and unforeseen challenges? 

One of the keys to “breakthrough performance” that Robyn elaborated on is the combination of “courage and guts.” Courage can come from three places, the “three Bs” as Robyn calls them: you can be born with it, you can build it, and you can borrow it.



When talking about “guts,” Robyn shared the following acronym:

Go the distance, quietly persevering
Unwavering in patience and faith
Taking calculated risks
Shattering the norm

Robyn shared a story about borrowing courage from her Eco-Challenge team when they were challenged to ascend to the 19,000 ft summit of a volcano. Two of her teammates had to descend for medical reasons. In order for her team to continue, Robyn had to be the one to go up. It was a life and death decision at that altitude, and in that moment, she had to borrow her courage from her teammates in order to continue. Not only did they make it to the summit, but went on to win that Eco-Challenge.

Robyn also reminded us that connecting to a higher purpose is an important path to finding courage. Robyn challenged us to put two things on our calendars for 2021:

  1. Identify two things that will require great courage and commit to doing them in 2021
  2. Find you higher sense of purpose: what is your “why” what are you doing these two things for? Who are the people in your life from whom you can borrow your courage?




We closed out our Focus 2021 virtual conference with an exciting give-away from Diamonds Direct Birmingham: a pair of diamond stud earrings valued at over $1,500.

We received so many worthy nominations–a true testament to the strength and positive attitude of so many women during this pandemic. The lucky winner of our Sparkle and Shine give-away is Kellie Johnson from Alabama Power.

“Kellie has been a true light and ideal example of grace during this pandemic. She flawlessly transitioned to a completely remote work environment for her employer, Alabama Power. Kellie has continued to execute her duties as a Buildings Operations Representative exceptionally well. Alabama Power can continually depend on her as a dispatcher for work orders for any building owned by the company in the state of Alabama. Not only has Kellie continued to perform her assigned duties, but she volunteered to work extended hours during the pandemic after storms hit.

Kellie is not only passionate about performing her role at Alabama Power exceptionally well, but is also passionate about animals. When Kellie noticed a social media post about a dog needing to be re-homed due to the owner’s inability to continually care for it during the pandemic, Kellie’s heart went out to the owner and the dog, and Kellie adopted Hershie. Kellie is an advocate of adopting animals who need homes as opposed to purchasing from breeders.

Kellie has truly shown grace throughout this pandemic with regard to her family. When family members fell ill, Kellie was always immediately ready to help in any way she could while remaining level-headed in order put family members at ease. Kellie has the biggest heart and her family means the world to her. The way she has composed and handled herself while looking after family members is truly inspiring.

Lastly, Kellie has shone through this pandemic to me personally by being a true friend. She is always available to talk to, and everyone knows how important it is to have that friendly ear during a time that could otherwise be so so lonely.

Kellie deserves an entire diamond store for the way she has handled herself during this pandemic and the way she treats and helps others every day of her life. She truly sparkles and shines!”

From all of us at Momentum and Diamonds Direct, congratulations, Kellie! 


Additional winners of give-aways during the event include: 

Alabama Goods gift bag. Alabama Goods is a locally owned retail store in Homewood and Huntsville, specializing in Alabama made products. Each item reflects our state’s warm character and creative spirit. When buying from Alabama Goods, you are supporting local artisans, craftsmen, and food makers.


Camden and Blue gift box. Camden & Blue is a custom gifting service company, specializing in corporate, client and wedding gifts by using local and regional sourced artisan products to elevate the gift giving experience. They provide thoughtfully selected, beautifully designed gifts created to express gratitude in a uniquely memorable way.


Coca-Cola commemorative stadium blankets. For over 100 years Birmingham Coca-Cola Bottling Company has provided refreshing Coca-Cola products to the Magic City and the greater metropolitan area. Birmingham Coca-Cola and it’s 500+ employees are proud of our continued support of the many civic and charitable organizations serving our communities, including Momentum Focus 2021!