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From staff accountants to partners, the Women's Leadership Forum inspires and empowers women working in accounting and finance. Join professional women at all stages of their careers to share experiences, learn to successfully manage your career opportunities and reach your goals. Explore everything from communication styles to the fine art of negotiation to improving your leadership skills.
The networking luncheon features our annual Women to Watch Awards, which recognize outstanding women for their inspiring contributions to the profession and their communities.
All CalCPA Education Foundation Conferences include free Wi-Fi, discounted parking, continental breakfast, networking lunch, and afternoon refreshments.
2017 subjects will be updated soon. 2016 major subjects included:
Wireless Internet access, continental breakfast and plated lunch will be provided at this event and are included in your registration fee.
Pay the lowest price and save up to 60% with the CalCPA Education Foundation’s discount programs.
To ensure that all credit is properly recorded, please review your information and update your CPA, CFP, CTEC or Bar license number(s).
Basic knowledge of leadership structures within an accounting firm or corporation.
Women in the accounting profession who are interested in enhancing their leadership skills.
As founder and president of SpeechSkills, Cara Hale Alter has provided training to some of the world’s best-known companies including Allstate, Caterpillar, Google, Intel, Pixar, Pinterest, Salesforce and Williams-Sonoma. A guest lecturer at U.C. Berkeley, Harvard University, Stanford University, and U.C. Hastings College of Law, Alter has also worked with numerous top-100 law firms, including DLA Piper, Morgan Lewis, O’Melveny & Myers, and White & Case. She is a frequent media resource, appearing in Forbes.com, The Globe and Mail, USA Today, and countless other media outlets. Relying on 20 years of research, Alter has a deep understanding of how nonverbal communication shapes the perception of leadership presence. She literally wrote the book on projecting credibility and confidence: the critically acclaimed The Credibility Code.
In workshops, Alter’s known for delivering precision feedback with warmth and humor. On stage, she’s an energetic and compelling presenter, having won numerous national awards for public speaking. With a bachelor’s degree in speech communication and an master of fine arts in theatre, Alter’s early career includes professional work as a voice-over artist and commercial actress. However, perhaps her best preparation for a career as a keynote speaker has been her years spent as a camp counselor for the YMCA. She lives with her husband and two children in San Francisco. Her other loves include yoga, dance, and a good game of charades.
Coco Brown’s career in the tech industry has centered on IT and professional services leadership as board director, COO, and president. Understanding first-hand the disparity between men and women in the workplace, particularly in tech, Brown has a particular passion for ensuring that the gender balance in the workplace mimics that of our nation as a whole. For 12 years, Brown ran Taos as president, COO and board director. Taos is a well-known, privately-held IT services business, which she joined in 1997.
In 2013, Brown founded Executive Kinections. Her services include strategy workshop design and facilitation, building and leading boards of advisors, and consulting as a trusted advisor to organizational design and operational strategy. Brown’s clients include Cisco, FireEye, Loggly, Jitterbit, MentorNet, Riverbed, GlobeTouch, Vortx, and UCSF. She has been recognized with many awards and speaking engagements over the years.
Kim Ondreck Carim is CFO of San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Ballet Endowment Foundation, positions she has held since 2007. At San Francisco Ballet, Carim is responsible for finance, treasury, strategic planning, compliance and risk management, and information technology. As CFO, she has seen the organization through both successful and challenging years and she has brought new levels of efficiency and agility to the way the organization understands and manages its finances and makes strategic decisions. She was named a 2016 Bay Area CFO of the Year and was recently featured in a #LikeABoss Leadership column on Forbes.com.
Carim serves as the board chair of Techbridge Girls, an organization that inspires girls in underserved communities to discover a passion for STEM and STEM careers; as the treasurer of the board of directors of Dance/USA; on the audit committee of Headlands Center for the Arts; and on the Alameda Unified School District’s Measure I Bond oversight committee. Carim holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics from Yale University, and a master of business in accounting and finance with distinction from New York University’s Stern School of Business, where she was a recipient of the AICPA’s John L. Carey Scholarship. She began her career with Deloitte in New York City, eventually serving some of the firm’s largest global clients as an expert in derivative financial instruments and treasury risk management. She also holds a master of fine arts in English and creative writing from Mills College.
Somya Chauhan is an explorer, advisor and accountant. In more official terms, Chauhan is the financial controller at Google, where she is responsible for the company’s global expenses, month close reporting and day-to-day operations. Most recently, she spent six months at X – the moonshot factory, a semi-secret research and development facility founded by Google. Chauhan has also trained to be a career coach. She facilitates a leadership development program for women at Google and also offers one-on-one career coaching sessions. Prior to Google, she worked at HP and EY.
Outside of work, Chauhan is passionate about hiking and has explored the Bay Area’s trails extensively. She is an accredited aerobic fitness instructor and has also trained in Kathak, an Indian classical dance. She loves to travel. Apart from living in Ireland, Chauhan has travelled all over Europe and Asia. While her favorite travel destination is Spain, her favorite travel experience so far has been the sunrise hike up the unmarked trail to Charan Mandir and Nahargarh in India.
Chauhan is an avid reader. The last three books she read were: The Silent Sister, A Man Called Ove, and A Random Walk Down Wall Street. Chauhan grew up in India in an army family, and has lived in both large metropolises and remote regions. She majored in English literature at Delhi University. After relocating to the United States, she followed her passion for numbers and earned a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Chauhan lives in the Bay Area with her husband Sanjay and daughter Aanya.
Patti Cotton works with high-potential women executives, business owners, and professionals in the financial services industry and related sectors to engage, elevate and equip them for greater leadership at all levels. Founder of Women Who Take the Lead, a movement to help women become confident, engaged, and equipped for leadership, she is a Fortune 500 speaker, executive coach and consultant. Cotton possesses more than 25 years of leadership both stateside and abroad, in the profit and not-for-profit worlds, and specifically in the realms of diplomatic relations, public affairs, marketing, and communications. She enjoys a rich background in developing teams to meet seemingly impossible goals and create change.
During her tenure as chief development officer of a five-hospital healthcare system, Cotton designed a plan and led a team that raised more than $21.3 million in four years – a feat that experts said could not be done. Leveraging this experience, she now helps women around the world to master their inner leader and executive presence for extraordinary results. Her speaking and workshop facilitation address such areas as women changing the face of leadership, authentic leadership branding for greater effectiveness and confidence, strengthening executive presence for influence and impact, and creating leadership legacy. She works with companies and privately-owned businesses to develop talent and leadership at all levels, and facilitates successful system-wide reorganizations and transitions.
Cotton’s formal education includes master’s degrees in organizational management and development, and in English literature. She holds credentials as a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation. In addition, Cotton is certified in Harvard University’s Immunity to Change methodology, conflict resolution in the workplace through Kenneth Cloke, and mediation through La Sierra University’s Center for Conflict Resolution. She is a guest lecturer at select universities on conflict management, authentic leadership, and advanced coaching methodologies.
Cotton’s client roster includes privately-owned businesses, and companies including Bank of America, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Harvard University, Sysco, Edward Jones, Morgan Stanley, Girl Scouts of America, Fehr & Peers, and more. Her volunteer service supports the area of health and welfare for healthier, happier families and communities, and a portion of all business profits supports alternatives to domestic violence and at-risk youth. Cotton is a recipient of The U.S. President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service.
Chrislynn Freed is a professor of clinical accounting at the Leventhal School of Accounting at USC. Prior to joining USC, she was a senior manager at an international CPA firm specializing in the hospitality and financial services industries. Freed has received numerous awards including the CalCPA Outstanding Accounting Educator Award in 2013; Golden Apple Teaching Awards in 2010, 2012 and 2014; USC Mellon Award for mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in 2008 and 2009; and USC Parents Association Teaching and Mentoring Award in 2008.
Freed is actively involved in CalCPA as a member of the Accounting Education Committee (former co-chair), Public Service Award Selection Committee, and the Communications Committee. She previously served on the board of directors of CalCPA and is presently a trustee of the CalCPA Education Foundation. She is a member of USC’s Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures, the advisory board of University of Florida’s Fisher School of Accounting, and the UF Foundation National Board. Freed received her master’s degree in business administration from the Marshall School of Business at USC and her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Florida.
In 2009, Ann Marie Houghtailing launched her practice as a business development consulting expert with only $5 in her pocket, a MacBook and a truck load of tenacity in the worst economic climate of her life. Just one year later, she was the corporate alliance partner for the Institute for Sales and Business Development at the University of San Diego. She has delivered a TEDx talk, authored How I Created a Dollar Out of Thin Air, founded the Millionaire Girls’ Movement, and written two one-woman shows: Renegade Princess and Raising Humans. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Daily Worth, XO Jane, San Diego Business Journal, Yahoo! Finance and Thought Catalog. Houghtailing has trained thousands of people in 42 states as well as abroad. In the last two years, Houghtailing’s Acts of Love program has donated all proceeds of her performances to worthy organizations, raising nearly $25,000 to people in need.
Hannah-Beth Jackson is a former prosecutor and practicing attorney, educator, and small business owner. She was elected to the California State Senate in 2012 to represent the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County. A graduate of Scripps College in Claremont, California with a joint-major in government and sociology, she received her law degree from Boston University Law School before returning to California to work as a deputy district attorney for Santa Barbara County. Eventually, she became the managing partner for the Law Offices of Eskin and Jackson, with offices in Ventura and Santa Barbara. From 1998 to 2004, she represented the 35th Assembly District in the State Assembly, where she worked with Democratic and Republican governors to author more than 60 bills into law.
Jackson has also co-founded two non-profit organizations, served as the first policy-maker in residence at U.C. Santa Barbara, and served as an adjunct professor at Antioch University. In the Senate, she is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and serves on several key committees, including the Natural Resources and Water Committee, the Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, and the Public Safety Committee. During her time in the Legislature, Jackson has become known as an effective advocate for protecting the rights and privacy of Californians, protecting the environment, advancing legislation to reduce gun violence, supporting access to justice for all Californians, championing equality for women, advocating for commuter rail, improving access to early childhood education, and supporting veterans and veterans’ treatment courts, among other issues. She is the author of Senate Bill 358, the California Fair Pay Act, landmark legislation that established the strongest equal pay law in the country. She was recently named by the Huffington Post as one of 11 women around the country “blazing new trails” in American politics.
Jackson has received Legislator of the Year awards from a wide range of organizations and is the recipient of the prestigious California Women Lawyer’s Fay Stender Award, given annually to an attorney committed to affecting positive change with “zest, humanity (and) personal courage” who serves as a role model for women. An advocate for justice for women, children, and victims of crime for more than three decades, she helped establish the Santa Barbara Shelter Services for Women (now known as Domestic Violence Solutions) and Women Against Gun Violence. She is also a founding member and past president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee. Jackson is married to retired Superior Court Judge George Eskin. She has a daughter, two stepchildren and six grandchildren. She and her family have resided in the district for more than 35 years.
Deborah McDonald Messemer is a managing partner at KPMG San Francisco. Her primary responsibilities include leading and representing the firm in the marketplace, development of marketplace strategies, overseeing the delivery of high quality client service, and attracting and retaining key resources. Messemer has significant client service experience, has served as a mentor for numerous employees and partners, and has held several leadership positions within the firm. She has spent a significant portion of her career serving financial services organizations, including banks, private equity and venture capital clients. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor of business administration (accounting).
Messemer serves on the boards of the Bay Area Council, University of California Berkeley Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, San Francisco Committee on Jobs, Posse, and Project Glimmer. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of San Francisco Ballet and is a member of the International Women’s Forum, and Financial Women of San Francisco. She is a founding member of the San Francisco chapter of Women Corporate Directors, a past recipient of KPMG’s Chairman’s Award for outstanding volunteer and community service, and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Fortune Magazine’s Insiders column. She has been recognized as one of the Bay Area’s Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times and the 2016 Financial Woman of the Year by the Financial Women of San Francisco.
Eva Nitta is a senior manager in the exempt organization tax services practice for EY and is located in the San Francisco office. She has over nine years of public accounting experience providing tax compliance and consulting services. Nitta is focused on providing tax compliance and advisory services to tax-exempt organizations, including hospitals, supporting organizations, foundations, educational organizations, and other charitable organizations. She has advised tax-exempt clients on a variety of issues including public charity status, maintaining tax-exempt status, unrelated business income tax, private inurement/benefit and intermediate sanctions, ASC740/FIN48 analysis, evaluation of alternative investment structures, and captive insurance companies.
At EY, Nitta serves on a team that authors and issues tax alerts when news or tax law guidance related to exempt organization issues breaks. She is a CPA in California, Michigan, and Virginia and received her bachelor’s degree in business with a focus on accounting and international studies – East Asia. She also has her master’s degree in business administration. Both degrees were obtained from Indiana University – Bloomington. She is a member of the AICPA and CalCPA.
Through years of research and hands-on work with Silicon Valley pioneer companies, Deborah Perry Piscione has found the keys to building organizations into innovation machines and preparing leaders for the future. Her discoveries are highlighted in her critically-acclaimed books: The People Equation: Why Innovation Is People, Not Products (April 2017 release); Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Everyone Else Can Learn from the Innovation Capital of the World (New York Times bestseller); and The Risk Factor: Why Every Organization Needs Big Bets, Bold Characters and the Occasional Spectacular Failure (international bestseller).
Having worked at the White House and on Capitol Hill, and then moving to Silicon Valley, Piscione was struck by the vast differences in power and leadership between the two coasts. She became fascinated by the collaborative cultures of innovation that dominate the Valley. She specializes in helping organizations understand their under-realized assets – their talent workforce –and build systems to unlock their full potential. Her clients include Google, McKinsey, TED Talks, Cadence Design, London School of Economics, Microsoft, McDonald’s, WOBI/HSM, NetApp, Princeton University, KPMG, Innotown, Qualcomm, Society for Human Resource Management, Stanford University, Accenture, Texas Economic Development Council, Singularity University, Council on Foreign Relations, and many others.
As chief practice officer at Moss Adams LLP, Rebecca Pomering oversees the firm’s client service and growth strategies. She is responsible for implementation and growth of the firm’s national industry practices, as well as the firm-wide marketing and business development functions.
Pomering joined the firm in 1997 and spent 11 years as a management consultant, providing consulting services to wealth management firms across the country on business strategy and management. In 2008, she was named CEO of Moss Adams Wealth Advisors, a division of Moss Adams LLP, to lead the firm’s integrated delivery of wealth management services. In this role, she was responsible for strategic planning, sales and marketing, team development, and mergers and acquisitions for the wealth management group, as well as the group’s integration with the overall firm.
Pomering has co-authored two books on business management and is a frequent speaker on a broad range of leadership and management topics. She is a founding advisory board member of the Moss Adams Forum W initiative and is involved in a number of community organizations. She has been recognized on InvestmentNews’ Women to Watch (2015), Wealth Manager’s 50 Top Women in Wealth (2009-2011), and Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People in Accounting (2008) lists.
Jodie Rolih is a principal in the Forensic and Financial Consulting Services Group at Hemming Morse. With more than 26 years of experience, her practice focuses on litigation support, forensic accounting and business consulting.
Rolih’s experience includes calculating economic damages and conducting fraud investigations for a diverse range of industries. She has prepared numerous financial analyses on behalf of clients in disputes including business interruption, contract issues, large family partnerships, white collar crime, insurance fraud and personal injury claims, including lost wages. Rolih has testified as an expert witness in deposition and trial.
Demonstrating dedication and commitment to her industry, Rolih is a CPA and is Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF). She is a member of the AICPA and the Economic Damages and Fraud sections of CalCPA. Rolih previously served as a board member for the Fresno chapter of CalCPA and held several leadership positions, including chapter president. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1988.
Prior to co-founding Eloqui with David Booth, Deborah Shames was an award-winning film and television director. She founded the only female-owned production company in the San Francisco Bay Area – Focal Point Productions, which she ran for 15 years. Shames directed luminaries including Wendie Malick, Rita Moreno, Danny Glover, and Angela Lansbury.
Shames coaches female executives on presentation and communication skills. She preps authors, CEOs and executives before media tours, and works with celebrity and on-air talent at major television studios. Shames is frequently engaged prior to national sales meetings or product launches as a keynote speaker or coach, and for leadership development training. Her clients include TD Ameritrade, Prolacta Bioscience, Amgen, Mattel, Lotte Advanced, Hyundai Hata and Fisher-Price, as well as accounting, law, financial and insurance firms. Shames coaches individuals to identify their strengths, utilize their authentic voice and drive business.
She also serves non-profits, especially around fundraising. From the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and the Arthritis Foundation to Ability First, Shames trains the CEO and senior management teams as well as the volunteers. Her latest non-profit client is THORN, founded by Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. Moore also calls on Shames for coaching with her public appearances. Shames has led a business group in Calabasas for 12 years. She received a “Consultant of the Year” award by the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.
Shames and her partner David Booth wrote Own the Room: Business Presentations that Persuade, Engage, and Get Results. It was published by McGraw-Hill, and is now in its third printing and considered a business bestseller. Her book for women speakers was released in mid-January by BenBella Books, Out Front: How Women Can Become Engaging, Memorable, and Fearless Speakers. When not working, Shames travels, does photography, hikes in the mountains, and makes jewelry.
Nancy Sheppard founded Women2Boards in 2014 to assist women on the path to the boardroom. Her past experience includes over 20 years as CEO and director, Western Independent Bankers, a founding board member for a bank services corporation, and a trustee for a workers’ self-insurance group. She was a member of the leadership team at the California Bankers Association and spent several years on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Sheppard’s record of working in male-dominated environments has given her a passion to assist more women break through the boardroom ceiling. She was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times. Because of her leadership in the board diversity movement, she was asked to chair the 2020 Women on Boards’ National Conversation on Board Diversity: San Francisco for the past two years. She joined the leadership team of The Athena Alliance in February 2017.
Amy Vetter, CPA.CITP, CGMA is the global vice president, education and head of accounting, USA at Xero. She is accountable for developing and executing the education strategy for Xero worldwide, through Xero University (XeroU). Additionally, as the head of accounting, Vetter works to be an external and internal evangelist for change management utilizing cloud accounting and is a speaker at accountant and small business conferences and workshops throughout the United States and internationally.
Vetter’s experience includes developing customer educational and benefit programs for the accounting technology industry at many of the leading companies that serve accounting professionals and small businesses. She is a small business owner herself, owning a yoga studio with a variety of non-heated and heated yoga classes offered to members in the studio or virtually streamed and on demand. Her diverse experience includes owning and operating her own accounting practice that she later sold, in addition to other business ventures she has owned or been in partnership with along the way.
Vetter is an advocate and evangelist for the accounting profession and entrepreneurship. She has been recognized as a Top 100 Most Influential Person by Accounting Today multiple times and one of the Most Powerful Women in Accounting by CPA Practice Advisor. She has been nominated as a “Women to Watch” by CALCPA, is an AICPA IMTA Executive Committee member and CITP Champion, CALCPA MAP State Committee member, CALCPA Women’s Leadership Forum Conference Committee member and selected by The CPA Technology Advisor as an outstanding 40 Under 40 technology-based accountant in 2006 and 2009.