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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

Diversity and Inclusion Summit (Recap)

March 10, 2020

The L.A. Grand Hotel Downtown
333 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071


Letter from the Publisher

Anna Magzanyan

The Los Angeles Business Journal Celebrates the LA Business Community’s Leadership Role in Diversity and Inclusion

The Los Angeles Business Journal proudly hosted the fifth annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit event at the LA Grand Hotel Downtown on Tuesday, March 10th. The eventful morning featured a series of panel discussions featuring companies and individuals who have shown an exceptional commitment to promoting practices that advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in business leadership. Attendees had the opportunity to learn from the managers and executives who have shown the ability to develop and lead an increasingly diverse workforce and client base to achieve company goals.


Panel topics included:

The audience also heard an interactive and challenging keynote presentation from Sahar Andrade (Sahar Consulting), truly one of the nation’s leading authorities on the subject of diversity in the workplace. She discussed sensitivity in diversity and inclusion and how the process needs to be humanized and not just about looking at numbers. She urged the audience to go back to the basics of all of us being human beings that share the same foundation.

Moderated by Akash Sehgal (Green Hasson Janks), panelists Lizette Espinosa-Veneziano (infanttech), Michael Ormonde (Wells Fargo), and Mercy Steenwyk (ForensisGroup) – executive leaders from different industries and sectors shared their views on challenges and opportunities when building and measuring a culture of diversity and inclusion within their organizations and the effects it has on productivity

Moderated by Scott Robson (Los Angeles Business Journal), panelists Catherine Crow (Easterseals Disability Services), Janice Dollar (Wells Fargo), Mira Hashmall (Miller Barondess LLP), and Dr. Lois M. Shelton (CSUN Nazarian College) — top thought leaders on diversity — shared the issues that need to be considered when building a diverse team and how that correlates to productivity, profitability, business growth and morale.

Moderated by Gail Farber (HNTB), panelists Borja Leon (D’Leon Consulting Engineers), Amber Meshack (Los Angeles World Airports), Phillip A. Washington (Metro), and Stephanie Wiggins (Metrolink) helped to define innovative approaches to the ever-important role of mentorship as organizations across multiple sectors of industry move to increase the diversity of their employee base.



Sahar Andrade

Diversity, Inclusion & Leadership Consultant
Sahar Consulting

Sahar Andrade, MB.BCh is a diversity, inclusion and leadership consultant and culture competence speaker/consultant, certified as a Social Media Strategist. She has lived, worked and been educated in seven countries and three continents and speaks five languages. She holds a double bachelors degree in medicine and surgery, a major in psychiatry from Cairo University; and has successfully completed a Mastery of HR Studies Certificate Program. She is an author, TED Talk speaker and her Entrepreneur Training Program has received Congressional Recognition. She was awarded the Diversity Insights Award by the National Diversity Council and the Leadership Excellence Award by hr.com. She is a business advisor at PCR-SBDC, a subsidiary of the Small Business Administration. She termed as a board member for NAAAHR, and as a board member for the Los Angeles Diversity Council. She is currently a board member of Leadership Circle of Change. Her book “49 Things About Entrepreneurship” is available via Amazon.


Catherine Crow – Easterseals Disability Services

As chief people officer for Easterseals Southern California, Catherine Crow is responsible for talent acquisition and retention, total rewards, learning and talent development, and employee engagement. Crow has over 25 years of human resources leadership experience and served as vice president of human capital at Optum (UnitedHealth Group), senior vice president of people services at DaVita Medical Group and Vice President of Employee and Clinician Services at HealthCare Partners Medical Group, Inc. Crow’s area of focus is HR transformation and growth. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California.

Janice Dollar – Wells Fargo

Janice Dollar is a senior vice president and the regional services senior manager for the Greater California Community Bank with a team of approximately 68 team members who oversee banking operations, compliance, auditing, loss prevention, risk mitigation and conduct risk overview for Wells Fargo’s 560+ retail banking branches across the state of California. A 26-year Wells Fargo financial services veteran, Dollar assumed her current position in 2009. She has spent the majority of her banking career supporting Community Banking team members and banking customers in the Greater Los Angeles area down to the border. Dollar began her career as a part time teller, working in community banking, in various positions from branch manager to district manager with oversight of 12 branches in the Santa Clarita Valley market.

Lizette Espinosa-Veneziano – infanttech

Lizette Espinosa-Veneziano is president and co-founder of infanttech; creator of the zooby–a baby monitor for cars and smarttemp-a technology tracker of a baby’s temperature all day and night. Espinosa-Veneziano’s focus is to drive the vision, team, and strategic roadmap for infanttech. A visionary entrepreneur with a mission and drive to create innovative technology solutions to impact and protect babies and young children. She has always been driven to look beyond the norm and think how she could make a difference by creating global impact. As a rare commodity in the US and a woman in STEM, she is a leader in an industry that only has 25% of women engaged. Prior to this entrepreneurial venture, she led her law office. Protecting the innocent is in her DNA. She graduated from Loyola Law School Los Angeles, and USC.

Gail Farber, PE – HNTB Corporation

Gail Farber, PE, serves as HNTB Corporation’s Orange County office leader and vice president, based in the firm’s Santa Ana office. Farber has more than 35 years of transportation industry experience and leads project delivery and HNTB’s strategy to continue growing in Southern California. Her technical skills and her proven leadership ability for multi-agency collaboration enable her to expedite delivery of challenging and complex infrastructure projects. Farber’s breadth of experience spans across the spectrum of public works and involves transportation, water, waste management and buildings for design, delivery, operation and maintenance. Previously, she served as director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, one of the nation’s largest public works agencies. As both an engineer and executive manager on a diverse range of projects in the public sector.

Mira Hashmall – Miller Barondess LLP

Mira Hashmall, Partner at Miller Barondess LLP, is an experienced litigator who represents clients in all phases of litigation, from pre-litigation counseling to appellate proceedings. She has successfully represented clients in federal and state court jury trials, including healthcare companies, commercial banks, government agencies, and entertainment studios, among many others. She specializes in employment litigation matters involving race and gender discrimination, retaliation, wage and hour, and wrongful termination claims for private and public employers. Hashmall is a Certified Appellate Specialist and heads the appellate department at Miller Barondess. She has represented clients in appellate proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals for the Sixth, Ninth and Tenth Circuits, and the California Courts of Appeal. s throughout her community. She enjoys collaborating with local officials and community leaders in identifying and addressing the needs within the community.

Borja Leon, PE – D’Leon Consulting Engineers

Borja Leon is a transportation and infrastructure professional with close to 20 years of experience in both the private and public sectors. He has led the advancement and implementation of major infrastructure projects in the Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Sacramento. He joined D’Leon Consulting Engineers in November 2018 and is the Managing Director for all the company’s transportation, aviation, construction and program management practices. Leon previously served as Deputy Mayor for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa from 2010 to 2013. Leon took a chief role in developing and implementing Mayor Villaraigosa’s transportation agenda, which included the Los Angeles Country Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), the California Department of Transportation, among other agencies.

Amber Meshack – Los Angeles World Airports

Amber Meshack is the director of the new Business, Jobs, & Social Responsibility division at Los Angeles World Airports. The division is responsible for leading efforts to maximize business and job opportunities for local, diverse firms and workers. For the past two years, she worked on the Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP) LAX, where she managed executive operations and strategic projects, including developing the local hire, workforce, and small, local, and disadvantaged business contracting requirements for the $4.9B Automated People Mover project. Prior to working at LAWA, Meshack worked at the City of Los Angeles’s Housing & Community Investment Department, leading strategic planning and policy for the Consolidated Plan, the investment strategy for community development funds.

Michael Ormonde- Wells Fargo

Michael Ormonde was named Wells Fargo Los Angeles Region bank president in November of 2017. Ormonde oversees over 1,200 Wells Fargo team members at approximately 86 branches across the cities of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and South Bay territories. A 21-year financial services veteran, Ormonde has spent his career-serving customers in San Francisco, Greater Philadelphia, Delaware, and Washington D.C. regions. He has held several leadership positions including district manager and area president. Prior to being named Los Angeles Region Bank President, he served as Region Bank President for the Washington D.C. region. An active member in his community, Ormonde currently serves on the board of directors of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Akash Sehgal – Green Hasson Janks

Akash Sehgal leads Green Hasson Janks’ Tax Practice and has a deepexpertise in multistate income and franchise tax, sales and use tax and credits and incentives. He has more than 20 years of tax experience, and prior to joining Green Hasson Janks in 2012, worked at two Big Four firms in Los Angeles and Seattle. Sehgal is also the lead tax partner in the firm’s Food and Beverage Practice and works with a number of beverage manufacturers operating both in California and on a multistate basis. Sehgal also leads the firm’s research and development credit outsourcing initiative and works closely with specialized research and development credit firms. He enjoys helping clients grow their businesses and assisting them on complex state and local tax issues

Dr. Lois M. Shelton – CSUN Nazarian College

Lois M. Shelton earned a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University and is a professor in the Department of Management at the California State University, Northridge. She is also an associate editor at the International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior and Research, and was recently named a Justin G. Longenecker Fellow by the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. A former business executive with nearly ten years of experience in diverse fields such as management consulting and real estate development, she teaches entrepreneurship and strategy at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Her research interests include ethnic and women’s entrepreneurship, industry and social structure, and the work/nonwork interface.

Mercy Steenwyk – ForensisGroup

Through a deep sense of purpose, clarity of mission and the power of a company culture based on core values, Mercy Steenwyk, founder and CEO of ForensisGroup, has led the nationwide expert consulting firm for nearly 30 years. ForensisGroup brings the best minds in the country to those who need to find out what really happened when things go wrong. ForensisGroup brings the science in the legal system to uncover the truth, prevent damages and positively change human experience in the world. Social justice through our service is the company’s social purpose and responsibility. Steenwyk approaches her professional and personal life with a dedication to learning and staying inspired while helping others do the same, creating your own future and contributing to the greater good while making business a solution to the challenges of society today.

Phillip A. Washington – Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)

As Metro CEO, Phillip A. Washington manages a total balanced budget of $7.2 billion for FY20, is responsible for overseeing between $18-$20 billion in capital projects, and provides oversight of an agency with nearly 11,000 employees that transports 1.2 million boarding passengers daily riding on a fleet of 2,000 clean-air buses and six rail lines. Metro is the lead transportation planning, programming and financing agency for LA County. As such, it is a major construction agency that oversees bus, rail, highway and other mobility-related infrastructure projects – together representing the largest modern public works program in North America. Washington was a key leader in the 2016 successful effort to pass a new half-cent sales tax in Los Angeles County, which garnered 71.15% voter approval.

Stephanie Wiggins – Metrolink

Stephanie Wiggins was named CEO of Metrolink by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors in December 2018. Wiggins assumed leadership in January 2019 and leads the 275-employee strong commuter railroad with a budget of $793 million. As CEO, Wiggins directs an agency that operates a commuter rail network on seven routes across a six-county, 538 route-mile system. Wiggins has held high-level positions at three of the five-member agencies that comprise Metrolink and is well-known as a customer-focused leader who finds solutions from a regional perspective. Wiggins’ vision for the agency is to create value and exceed expectations by prioritizing a customer-first orientation with three pillars to provide an outstanding customer experience: safety and security, an integrated system, and modernizing business practices.

Inside This Supplement

Leveraging Diversity to Create Your Dream Team
Congratulations! You won the prize account, got the greenlight for a new program, inked a big partnership deal or landed that coveted promotion. As you toast this latest accomplishment with family and friends, you know that you’ll need a high-powered team… Read More

Actions for Diversity: A Key Focus for Realtors
Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of the realtor profession and the Greater Los Angeles REALTORS® (GLAR) is dedicated to making an industry-wide impact… Read More

The Transformative Power of Mentoring
Innovative mentoring programs offer a holistic approach to successful business outcomes for all parties. It recognizes diverse educational or experiential needs, specialized talent and differing professional and geographical perspectives… Read More

Inclusive Leadership Fosters Inclusive Excellence
Many organizations grapple with effectively ensuring that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are evident within their organizational practices, values, and strategy. An essential aspect of creating and sustaining a diverse, inclusive, and competitive organization is the practice of intentional and authentic leadership… Read More

Federal Taxes and Same-Sex Marriage: How Should You File?
Note: This byline is part of a special series in celebration of diversity & inclusion. Here, Marc Ackerman, private wealth financial advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors, shares tips for same-sex couples filing federal income taxes… Read More

The Importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
While diversity, equity and inclusion have become buzzwords in recent years, the definitions and what they mean and how they apply to each company or organization can differ. For example, there is no clear definition of equity, even in the nonprofit sector… Read More

It’s a Fact: Disability Inclusion is Just Good Business!
Anyone who has looked for a job knows that the task is often fraught with anxiety … and it can be even more challenging for people with disabilities. Disability remains a prevalent barrier to employment for the estimated 61 million people (one in three households) with a disability… Read More

Diversity in Health Care: The Key to Better Health Outcomes in Minority Communities
To improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities, it is critical for the health care industry to be as diverse as the population it serves. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the United States. For example, Hispanics make up more than 18 percent of the population, but just six percent of physicians… Read More

CEO Action Reports Significant Progress in Elevating Diversity and Inclusion as a Workplace Priority
Late last year, at its first-ever combined gathering of CEOs, CHROs and CDOs, CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion (CEO Action), the largest CEO-driven coalition to advance diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace, hosted nearly 300 signatory organizations… Read More


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