Keynote Speakers

Dr. Mikki Hebl

Mikki Hebl Pic.jpg

Martha and Henry Malcolm Lovett Professor of Psychology,

Rice University

Mikki Hebl is a proud native of Pardeeville, Wisconsin, who graduated with her Ph.D. from Dartmouth College.  She joined the faculty at Rice University in 1998, was given the endowed title of the Radoslav Tsanoff Assistant Professorship in 2000, and is currently the Martha and Henry Malcolm Lovett Professor of Psychology with a joint appointment in the Jones School.


Mikki is an applied psychologist who research specifically focuses on workplace discrimination and barriers stigmatized individuals (e.g., women and ethnic minorities) face in social interactions, the hiring process, business settings, and the medical community.  In addition, she addresses ways in which both individuals and organizations can remediate such discrimination and successfully manage diversity. She has published approximately 165 journal articles, book chapters, and edited books. She has presented her research across the globe and often shares her expertise on subtle biases, gender issues, and ally training within organizations.


Mikki is a strong advocate for gender issues. She was one of five co-PI’s at Rice who received an NSF grant for over three and one-half million dollars to advance women in STEM fields on Rice University’s campus.  From 2010-2018, she has been funded on NIH grants to examine gender biases in letters of recommendation., successful mentoring relationships, and the impact that allies can play on increasing minorities in STEM fields. In 2014, she was honored with the Academy of Management’s Sage Award for lifetime achievement in research advancing knowledge of gender and diversity in organizations, and in 2018, she was selected as the Woman in Academia with Outstanding Career Award from the University of Lausanne’s business school.


Mikki is also simply passionate about teaching. In her 21 years at Rice, she has been the recipient of 21 major teaching awards, and she has joined an elite few at Rice University who has been retired from winning further awards. In 2005, she was selected as the Commencement Speaker at Rice University’s graduation ceremonies, which marked the first and only time a current faculty member gave the address. In 2016, she was awarded Baylor University’s $250,000 Cherry Teaching Award. And in 2017, in her inaugural year of teaching executive MBAs, she was awarded the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business MBA for Executives Award for Teaching Excellence. She has twice spent time teaching on Semester at Sea voyages and circumnavigated the world while teaching. Her proudest achievement bar none is watching her students succeed.


In her spare time, Mikki is an avid Green Bay Packer fan and completed her quest to run a marathon in every state in December of 2012. She also completed her quest to run a marathon on each continent in 2016. She and her husband, David, keep grounded with their two adult children, David and Chris, keep busy with their 15 year-old son, Jackson, 13 year-old daughter, Cecilia, and 11-year old, Caroline, and keep watch over their six step-grandchildren.

Leslie Mays

Leslie Mays has led significant culture transformation efforts for more than 30 years

across industries and sectors. She established and led the creation of innovative

diversity and inclusion strategies for some of the world’s largest firms including Avon

Products, Kimberly Clark, Pfizer Inc., Royal Dutch Shell, and General Mills.


She currently serves as Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for The Bill & Melinda

Gates Foundation where she is responsible for ensuring the integration and impact of

diversity, equity and inclusion across all areas of the foundation including culture, talent,

grantmaking, and ultimately, program outcomes. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mays was a Partner at Mercer Consulting, based in New York City.


Leslie has been a pioneer in the practical application of advanced workforce analytics to

effectively build future-focused HR and DEI strategies which deliver measurable results.

A respected thought-leader, she has extensive experience developing human capital

plans for advancing women, managing generational differences, maximizing impact of

D&I Leadership Councils and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and de-biasing HR

and talent processes to achieve desired outcomes. She is regarded as a trusted advisor

to Executive Leadership Teams, Corporate Boards, and management teams.


With a long history and commitment to community service, she is an active member of

the Executive Leadership Council, an American Leadership Forum Senior Fellow, and

former board member of the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York. Ms. Mays is a

proud graduate of Texas Southern University where she earned a BA in

Communications. She and her husband, Antonio currently reside in Settle Washington.

Leslie Mays Pic.jpg

Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation