Diversity Celebrated: Three Dynamite Women of Color Lead a Spirited Discussion on Their Paths to Success

October 2012

At FWA’s first ever diversity-focused event, members and guests were captivated by our panel of three accomplished women, each taking a different career path, telling a different story and yet sharing certain common lessons that inspired our audience.

Judy Kopa shared her experience moving to the United States from Taiwan as a teenager after several years at a Chinese boarding school that was supposed to cure her of being a “tomboy.” In the years since, Judy said she learned from the mistakes of others, seizing opportunities large and small, moving to a new job or new company whenever she needed more experience or simply “got bored.” Judy is now CFO of Silicon Valley-based, Luidia, Inc.

Mahla Shaghafi also immigrated to this country as a youngster, and recalled adjusting to American culture. Mahla’s path to success has been with one organization – Union Bank. She thanked them for their support (particularly when she learned of her pregnancy and was about to quit the bank’s management training program). To her surprise, the bank assured Mahla that she could have her baby and finish the program upon her return. Thirty years later, Mahla achieved the status of senior vice president at the bank.

Teveia Barnes described her vivid memory as an “army brat” learning that her father had turned down the opportunity to become an officer because he didn’t want to be “the first” African American to break the color barrier. Shocked that her father would shy away from such an honor, Teveia vowed to be “the first” whenever possible. She now leads the California Department of Financial Institutions. Her respect and support for others in her organizations propelled her to leadership positions quickly. “Support our sisters,” she advised.

All three women have successfully managed to have families at the same time their careers moved upward. The overarching theme of the evening was that women of color can and should support each other, and that glass ceilings will continue to shatter. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible.

If you have ideas for future diversity events, or want to help FWA enhance diversity, contact us. —Contributed by Alison Hightower


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