How to be an Ally (Diversity & Inclusion track)

Diversity & Inclusion is more than just a superficial corporate campaign. In this dynamic panel discussion, women from different backgrounds and perspectives will share their thoughts on what it takes to truly embrace an inclusive mindset. Panelists will share personal experiences, challenges and examples that help attendees connect to the people in their organizations and communities. Ultimately, this approach will strengthen relationships, fuel innovation and profitability and, ultimately, help Wisconsin move past community trauma.


Kristin Johnson

Kristin Johnson is a Development Associate with HEAR Wisconsin, a non-profit organization that recently celebrated its 90th  anniversary. She is passionate for its mission in eliminating communication and language barriers for people with hearing loss. She was born profoundly deaf and received services as a preschooler from HEAR Wisconsin. Kristin earned her B.A. in International Studies from Valparaiso University and M.A. in Museum Studies from Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY. She worked in the museum field for 20 years, including accessibility projects for exhibits and programs to ensure access for all visitors with disabilities. Three years ago, she decided to “give back” by working for HEAR Wisconsin that helped her and her family all those years ago.

Thembeka Machaba

I am a child of the South African liberation movement. My parents were forced to move to the U.S. in the early 1970s to broaden their college education. I was born in New Jersey in 1977 and we moved back to South Africa in the early 1980s. I took part in the first democratic elections in 1994.

After graduating from university in 1999, I joined Unilever a junior HR Manager. I married my best friend in 2004 and started working for a company that is as much a part of South Africa’s history as some of our struggle’s heroes. The South African Breweries took on the challenge of bridging the racial divide in South Africa while putting SA on the map in terms of talent and being a global player in a highly competitive market. I also discovered my love for beer. I returned to the U.S. to continue my career in organization development at MillerCoors. I have worked here for nearly four years, with small break to to travel the world with my husband.

Sandy Eichel

Sandy Eichel is a Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual, and Leadership Trainer and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant.

Sandy is passionate about changing the culture of financial services to be more inclusive for women, people of color and the LGBT community. Her practice focuses on helping clients from diverse backgrounds balance a solid financial future with having more fun and joy in their lives. As a Leadership Trainer and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, she with companies around the country to create an environment in which everyone can bring their wholes selves to work. She is a national speaker at conferences and workshops. Sandy serves on boards of directors for Out Professional Executive Network (OPEN) and Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) and is a member of the YWCA Empowerment Society, a group of sustaining donors. She is the lead singer of One Note and the Rhino, a band which raises money for nonprofits. Sandy lives with her partner Nancy, their three cats and Maggie, their dog.

Sabahat Ali

Sabahat Ali is a physician assistant, working as a member of the inpatient Diabetes Management team at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Sabahat grew up in Wauwatosa and attended Marquette University where she obtained her bachelor’s in Biomedical Sciences and her master’s in Physician Assistant Studies. She also serves on the board for the Milwaukee Chapter of Lajna Ima’illah USA, the women’s auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Kirsten Helgeson

Kirsten is a gifted strategist who challenges herself and those around her to find creative and heartfelt ways to unite action with passion. She does not shy away from difficult topics, choosing instead to find solutions that bring people together with purpose. Kirsten is an intuitive, innovative leader that helps people, communities and companies realize their potential.

As CEO of MettaVest, Kirsten is cracking open the one-to-one global investment marketplace with user-friendly mobile technology. MettaVest connects verified investors with validated, socially-impactful entrepreneurs and opportunities globally, curating trusted relationships that have both impact and return. She believes that by pooling our individual “little booms,” we can make one big “BOOM!” of sustainable and profitable impact. A true incubator of opportunity and a connector at heart, she is bringing this mindset to the masses thru MettaVest.

Prior to MettaVest, Kirsten was head of Certifications & Partnerships and Director of IV Club for EBW2020 (Empowering a Billion Women by 2020), where she cultivated community. There she worked with corporate partners, NGOs and entrepreneurs to develop creative ways to multiply impact. Kirsten also spent six years at Northwestern Mutual (NM – Fortune 109) where she specialized in Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) and Corporate Philanthropy. Prior to joining NM, Kirsten was with Cramer-Krasselt, the third largest independent advertising agency in the nation. There she led both national and global marketing communications efforts for brands like Kohl’s Department Stores, Johnson Controls and Mohawk Flooring. Kirsten specializes in thought leadership development, partnership development, organizational philanthropy, diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, value-based branding and identity creation.

Kirsten has received multiple Stevie Awards and Bronze Anvils. She was also recognized as the 2008 PRWeek Young Professional of the Year runner up, solidifying her standing as one of the top public relations minds in the country. Kirsten is a true global citizen, volunteering her time to relief efforts that support orphans in Haiti and refugees globally thru Headwaters Relief Organization. Having four nieces, Kirsten deeply understands the importance of helping girls across the globe become strong leaders, and works with the United Nations Foundation Girl Up Campaign.