Global Women's Leadership Forum Mission and Leader Biographies

Our Purpose

Our purpose is to be the primary resource for the leaders of women's business resource groups across all industries. Our communities share support strategies, discuss best practices for diverse women in leadership, and help create strategic plans for the acceleration of all women in the workplace.

Our Power

Our power lies in extending and expanding the opportunity for increased community by opening new neighborhoods across the country and sharing the knowledge and experiences of women in leadership roles within their women's business resource groups, enabling these women to grow, share, and encourage the success and significance of ALL women.

The Strength of the W©

Business Initiative
  • Research & Best Practices
  • Programming Ideas
  • Annual Assessments
  • Members-Only Web Portal
  • Topic-Driven Discussion Groups
  • Ambassador Program
  • Monthly Webinars
  • Forum Events
  • Topical Workshops
  • Industry Statistics
  • Metrics for Assessing WBRGs

Leader Biographies

Maureen O'Brien

Maureen O'Brien is the CEO of the Global Women's Leadership Forum®. Her first post college job was selling building products to contractors in the Chicago area, not very typical for a woman. People were intrigued to learn the story of this engaging woman and her choice to play with the "big boys" in a non-traditional field. After the birth of her first child, a son, O'Brien launched her own exterior remodeling company, O'Brien & Son, Inc. That business is in its 30th year.

Requests came from businesses and organizations asking her to share her story. With those requests came the birth of Maureen O'Brien SPEAKS ( Armed with her degree in education and the equivalent of a "doctorate" in hard knocks and life experience, Maureen is a sought after business speaker, considered to be an expert in Sales and Negotiation Skills, Leadership Development, Strategy, and Personal Branding. She is the author of two books, "Oneness. Wellness. Wholeness. Four Ways to TakecaraU®, and "Get Your Big Girl Pants On and SELL SOMETHING--A Handbook for Women (and Really Progressive Men) In Sales!"

Maureen has been honored as "One of the Most Influential Women in IL" by the Chicago Business Ledger and the National Association of Women Business Owners, as the "Humanitarian of the Year" by the National Speakers Association of IL, as "One of the Most Powerful and Influential Women in IL" by the National Diversity Council, and as a recipient of the "Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award" by the Illinois Commission on Diversity & Human Relations. Maureen is also Past President of the National Speakers Association-IL Chapter.

In 2009, O'Brien launched the Global Women's Leadership Forum® (, a WBENC Certified Organization, focused on women's business resource groups and leadership development, helping women to develop and demonstrate their full potential within Fortune 500 Companies. The Global Women's Leadership Forum® encourages leaders to stand up, stand out, and create real change within their organizations.

Nicole Nelson

Nicole Nelson carried a paint can for many years. She began her career in retail management, not painting as one might assume from the first sentence. Her winning personality and adaptable skills found her selling smoothies, bicycles, and then books before finding her place at Global Women's Leadership Forum®. Although Nicole's skillset is vast, her greatest expertise lies in content creation, print collateral, project management, team building, and handling multiple demands while maintaining composure and a sense of humor.

Her love of vintage style and dry wit sets her apart from the standard corporate leader image. The creative thinking that went into using a paint can as a purse when she was a teenager has become a trait that she uses daily to incorporate vision and logic into everything she accomplishes.

Nicole grew up in southern California, eventually making her way to northern Illinois where she currently lives with her husband and twin daughters in a home bordered by a nature preserve and farm field. When she is not helping create a legacy that benefits everyone in the workplace with GWLF, Nicole keeps her trusty DSLR camera with her to capture the adventures of her family and various roadside attractions.

Executive Strategists

Rita Johnson

Having a passport attached to your business card is a unique way to learn how to coach executives and that is exactly what Rita Johnson did. As the HR Officer for Europe and a member of McDonald's Global Leadership Institute, she helped design and facilitate leadership development programs in the Americas and throughout Europe, where she provided coaching and expertise to senior executives and their leadership teams in 28 countries.

In her role as chair-elect of McDonald's Global Women's Leadership Network, Rita was instrumental in launching the WLN in Europe, while ensuring that the US group continued its role of supporting women's career growth and development.

In 2009 Rita met Maureen O'Brien and after spending 25 years in McDonald's Corporation, she took a leap of faith and became SVP for the Global Women's Leadership Forum®; a start-up company determined to help women's business resource groups become true business levers inside organizations.

Rita provides leadership and personal coaching to women who are Corporate Members of Global Women's Leadership Forum® and is also an adjunct Executive Coach for BPI-Group US - a global leadership development organization with headquarters in Paris and Chicago.

Through her work with the Global Women's Leadership Forum®, she has the opportunity to continue her passion for coaching women and helping them discover their very best selves. Rita believes that the unique strengths of women are exactly what every business needs today and being part of GWLF is the best way to demonstrate and share those insights.

Diane Wolf

Diane2015Diane Wolf has been an executive strategist with the Global Women's Leadership Forum® for two years. Diane is a former Vice President of Operations, Engineering and Global Safety, Environmental and Sustainability for Kraft Foods. In her over 30 years of experience, Wolf has held key positions in capital procurement, engineering, manufacturing and product development in North America and globally.

Diane was actively engaged in the integration of Cadbury and Kraft compliance, sustainability and EHS processes in support of manufacturing. Prior to joining Kraft, Diane worked for Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati for a number of years in manufacturing. Diane was a founding member of two Women's networks at Kraft, Women in Operations and the Senior Women's Action Network. She is on the Advisory Board for Global Women's Leadership Forum® and serves in a consulting capacity as Executive Strategist.

Diane is also a board member of Heartland Alliance, a 125 year old non-profit Chicago organization which advances the human rights and responds to the human needs of endangered populations.

Diane holds a B.S. in Engineering and a M.S. in Engineering Management. Diane is currently consulting within the Food and Beverage industry.

2016 Advisory Board Members

Brad Lambert, Vice President of Flight Operations and System Operations Control, Horizon Air

Tom Carroll, Executive Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer, RR Donnelley

Kevin Owens, Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Siemens PLM Software

Kathy Warren, Vice President of Manufacturing Strategy, Baxter International Inc.

Sarita Soldz, Director of Marketing, Ashland Inc / Valvoline

Cari Wilkins, Product Strategy Leader, Aon

Ed McGrogan, Senior Vice President & Chief Accounting Officer, Discover Financial Services

Hemang Shah, Vice Chair of Diversity and Inclusion, Siemens USA

Shifra Kolsky, Vice President of External Reporting & Accounting Policy, Discover Financial Services

Erica Simmons, Senior Manager of Strategy, Siemens PLM Software

Kim Holmes, System Director, Discover Financial Services