Gala event Celebrates Achievements of Women of Iranian Heritage
WHAT: Women of Influence Soirée
WHERE: Beverly Hilton, 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
WHEN: Saturday, April 13, 2019; 5 p.m. – Midnight
TICKETS: $300, Available at www.iawfoundation.org
Los Angeles, California—The Iranian American Women Foundation, dedicated to providing a platform for empowerment among Iranian American women and to provide mentorship for younger generations of Iranians, presents the gala event Women of Influence Soirée on April 13 at the Beverly Hilton.
The inaugural event is a celebration of the achievements of the women of Iranian heritage, and honors the contributions of 15 visionary women who are making a difference in the areas of philanthropy, business, community service, arts, and science.
“We wanted to bring our community under one roof to celebrate contributions of the Iranian American women to society,” says IAWF founder Mariam Khosravani. “Women usually shy away from receiving recognition for their accomplishments, and we want to put the spotlight on them and their work to make sure they get the recognition they deserve. I think this is very important.”
The IAWF board compiled a list of candidates and together reviewed each individual and how they have made a difference in their community. “We looked at a broad range of candidates who are working in an extensive range of areas, from arts to science,” says Khosravani. “Each woman who is receiving our award is influential in their area of expertise. We examined how they have made a difference in people’s lives locally — as well as globally.”
Honorees and their categories include: Arts: Sussan Deyhim; Law: Hon. Tamila Ipema; Literature & History (Historian and Women’s Right Advocate): Nina Ansary; Banking: Avid Modjtabi, Bita Ardalan; Community Service: Shahrzad Ardalan and Katy Saei; Fashion: Simin Taghdiri; Philanthropy: Bita Daryabari; Neda Nobari, Media: Parisa Khosravi & Homa Sarshar; International Affairs: Fatemeh Ziai; Business: Nazie Eftekhari, Shahpar Khaledi
At the Women of Influence Soirée, guests will enjoy a pre-event reception from 5 to 6 p.m. Then the evening begins at 6 p.m.
Dr. Nina Ansary:
Dr. Nina Ansary is an internationally recognized women’s rights advocate, thought leader, scholar, and public speaker. As a UN Women Ambassador for Innovation and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics Centre for Women, Peace & Security, she regularly presents her work on women’s rights and the global impact of institutionalized gender discrimination at major universities and conferences in the US and UK, including Columbia, Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard, as well as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C, the US Senate Human Rights Caucus, and the World Affairs Councils of America. Dr. Ansary’s book Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran received international attention and garnered multiple awards – including the 2016 International Book Award in “Women’s Issues.” Dr. Ansary is the recipient of The 2018 Trailblazer Award from Barnard College, Columbia University. She has also been recognized as one of “14 Privileged Women to Change the World” by Marie Claire, been featured in Angeleno Magazine’s “Living Legacies of 2016” and selected as one of “Five Iranian Visionaries You Need to Know”’ and “6 Women Who Build Bridges Not Walls” by The New York Times. Dr. Ansary has appeared on Fox News, Larry King, the BBC, and been covered in a variety of top publications, including CNN.com, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, The UK Daily Telegraph, Teen Vogue and the Yale Journal of International Affairs. Dr. Ansary holds an MA in Middle Eastern Studies and a PhD in History from Columbia University. She serves on the Board of Directors of the New York based organization The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), Columbia University’s Global Leadership Council, the Board of Trustees of Barnard College, the Iranian American Women’s Foundation (IAWF), and Persia Educational Foundation. Connect with Nina on Twitter (@drninaansary) | Instagram (@ninaansary) | Facebook (facebook.com/ninaansary).
Bita Ardalan is managing director and head of the Commercial Banking Group at Union Bank, N.A., which includes Business Banking and Middle Market Commercial Lending. The Commercial Banking Group provides financial expertise to commercial clients including but not limited to: debt financing, depository and cash management, global trade, foreign currency exposure, interest rate and commodity management, syndications, private placements, high grade & high yield financing, securitizations, structured finance, leasing, mezzanine financing, ratings advisory, and private banking services across a broad range of industries. Prior to her current role, Ms. Ardalan served as the head of Middle Market Banking. Previously, she founded and oversaw the bank’s National Specialized Lending Group, including commercial finance, environmental services, non-profits, healthcare, aerospace and defense, public finance, and funds finance which supports the needs of sponsored investment funds, including bridge capital and subscription facilities. Ms. Ardalan earned her Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Williams College. She has completed numerous Executive Education Programs in corporate finance, leadership, strategic planning and finance at the Kellogg School for Management at Northwestern University. Ms. Ardalan is a frequent speaker and author on senior financing related topics. She currently serves on the Iranian-American Women’s advisory board, as an Ambassador for the Looking Beyond Foundation, and as a Board Member for the Town Hall, Los Angeles. Ms. Ardalan is also a member of the Young President’s Organization (YPO Gold) Santa Monica Bay Chapter, and the Jonathan Town & Beach Club.
Shahrzad Ardalan was the producer and host of a popular radio show called, “Life is Beautiful” on 670AM-KIRN Radio Iran. In her show, Shahrzad dealt with a variety of Iranian-American issues, with a positive approach, covering a variety of topics, such as family matters, parenthood, health, and other day-to-day aspects of life. She is now the host of a weekly radio show called, “peyk e hafteh.” Shahrzad is an active member of the community and has considerable experience working with social and charitable organizations. Her previous involvements include her role as president of Rancho Park Rotary club, president of Coalition of Iranian Entrepreneurs, board member of PAAIA, and a position on the advisory board of ISCC and Pars Equality Center. Shahrzad is also a real estate agent and manages the Westwood branch of HBC Realty. Additionally, for the past 11 years she has been conducting wedding ceremonies. She is married to Bahram Afshar and has a son, Amir.
Bita Daryabari embodies the spirit of humanist philanthropy. She received her bachelor’s in computer science then master’s degree in Telecommunication Management at Golden Gate University in California. Upon graduation, she joined GammmaLink, Inc., one of the early pioneers in the field of telecommunications. She later moved to MCI Communications where, more than once, she received distinguished awards and recognition for her work. She has started Pars Equality Center, a community foundation in 2010 to support the full integration of people of Persian (Iranian) origin in the United States, including refugees, asylees, immigrants and the American-born; and to advocate for their perspectives in American society. In 2008, she created the Bita Daryabari Endowment in Persian Letters at Stanford University, enabling the university to not only hire visiting and full-time professors of Persian literature, but also providing the necessary funds for the Iranian Studies program. Her International charitable work, primarily focused through the Unique Zan Foundation (established in 2007) is not limited to Iran and its literature, or Asia and its women. In 2008, Ms. Daryabari joined forces with Relief International and the Skoll Foundation, to build a women’s center in West Bank Palestinian Territory. Other philanthropic endeavors include collaboration with Moms Against Poverty (MAP) educating and empowering girls at Shaheed Shojaie Orphanage in south of Tehran, Iran, donation to the British Museum and Iran Heritage Foundation for the Shah Abbas Exhibition; funding Iranian Artists through Venice Biennale to display their work for the first time after 30 years of solitude in 2009; and contributions to the UCSF Mission Bay Neuroscience Research Building, which opened in 2012; Bita DaryabariScholarship Program For Women of Middle East in Business and Law at Golden Gate University since 2012. Grant to UC Davis for Iranian Studies, Bita Daryabari Endowment in Shahnama Project and Centre at Cambridge, England. Daryabari co-sponsored the San Francisco exhibition of the Cyrus Cylinder at the Asian Arts Museum of San Francisco Ms. Daryabari also serves as a Visionary Circle Member of the X-Prize Foundation. Her Honors include Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Golden Gate University, World Affair Council Honoree of the year (2015), Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2012), the United Nations Appreciation Award for Outstanding Leadership, Commitment and Support of the UN and Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (2011), PAAIA Philanthropist of the Year Award (2010) and Golden Gate University’s Alumni of the Year Award (2008).
Sussan Deyhim is a composer, vocalist, performance artist and activist. LA Times quotes Sussan as one of Iran’s most potent voices in exile. In 1980 she moved to New York embarking on a multifaceted career encompassing music, theatre, dance, media and film. Her work has been presented at The Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Royce Hall, The Wallis and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sussan’s wide-ranging collaborations include: Peter Gabriel, U2, Bobby McFerrin, Richard Horowitz, Deepak Chopra. She can be heard on the soundtracks of the Oscar Winning “Argo”, The Last Temptation of Christ,The Kite Runner, She has collaborated with Shirin Neshat on multiple projects, including Turbulent the winner of the Golden Lion at The Venice Biennial. Her activist works include collaborations with Eve Ensler, Saatchi and Saatchi’s children benefit, The United Nation’s gathering of the spiritual leaders visioned by Ted Turner. Her most recent projects include her acclaimed stage production The House is Black Media Project inspired by Forough Farrokhzad’s works and life, recently presented at The Wallis and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her upcoming recording releases include La Belle et La Bete a jazz influenced album to be released by summer of 2019 and an all female vocal composition based of the Mystic Persian Poet Attar’s masterpiece “Conference of The Birds”.
Ms. Eftekhari is the CEO and principal architect of HealthEZ and founder of The Araz Group, the first Preferred Provider Organization in the country. In fact, the term PPO was coined to describe her innovation. Her other innovations include the first medical management services, the first consolidated insurance and consumer payments to doctors and hospitals, the first healthcare consumer statement, and the first paperless statement. www.healthez.com She is a graduate of the London School of Economics and she attended the University of Southern California (UK) Graduate Program in International Relations and the University of Minnesota, MHA. She serves on the Board of Visitors of the University of Minnesota Medical School, the Board of Overseers of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, the Speaker’s Cabinet Leadership Circle (DCCC), and the boards of the Nonviolent Initiative for Democracy (NID) and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA). Often honored and recognized for her leadership in business and service to the community, Ms. Eftekhari most recently received the 2011 International Immigrant Achievement Award from The International Leadership Institute. In 1991 she established The Foundation for the Children of Iran, dedicated to enabling indigent Iranian children to receive life-saving health care services in the United States that are not available to them in Iran. www.childrenofiran.org Ms. Eftekhari has a son, Sahm McGlynn, and a daughter, Raz McGlynn, who are unabashedly her pride and joy.
Hon. Tamila Ebrahimi Ipema:
The Honorable Tamila Ebrahimi Ipema received her Bachelor’s Degree from Damavand College in Tehran, Iran. She received her Master’s and J.D. degrees from University of Louisville in Kentucky. She also has a LL.M. Degree in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University School of Law. Judge Ipema has served as a judicial officer for nearly 12 years. She has family, criminal, and civil experience. She has worked as an immigration defense attorney, Assistant District Counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice in immigration matters for DHS; as a judicial research attorney, and supervising research attorney for the Los Angeles Superior Court. She has also served as a California Superior Court Commissioner in both Los Angeles and San Diego Counties prior to her appointment as a Judge to the San Diego Superior Court. Judge Ipema has extensive teaching experience and is very involved in her community mentoring children and law students; she also has programs training incarcerated women to become productive members of the society. Judge Ipema received National Association of Women Judge’s (NAWJ) Mattie Belle Davis Award in 2013 for furthering the organization’s mission of “Access to Justice for All.” She also received Lawyers Club of San Diego’s “International Woman of Color” award in 2015, and “Friend of the Community Award” from Tom Homann Law Association in 2016. She also received two “Outstanding Jurist Awards” from both La Verne College of Law and San Diego County Bar Association in 2016.
Born in Iran in 1949, Shahpar Khaledi entered business school and graduated with a degree in Business Administration in 1972. She moved to California with her husband and two children in 1976. Then continued her education and obtained a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Northrop University. In 1997, Shahpar and her husband; Darioush Khaledi, founded Darioush Winery in Napa Valley. Their lifelong aspiration is to share the art, architecture, wine, craftsmanship and culture on their journey. Darioush is a harmonious blending of traditions, and honors the culture of their native motherland; Iran. Shahpar’s vision for Darioush Winery is shaped by her experience in fashion, retail, and trendsetting sensibility over decades as Founder and Director of Echelon; a European Boutique. Shahpar has been actively involved with Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She is also assisting underserved communities to receive access to affordable healthcare with Ole Health, the Saint Helena Hospital Foundation. Moreover, she provides access to music and performing arts education to underserved communities through Los Angeles Philharmonic and Festival Napa Valley.
Parisa Khosravi is the founder and president of Payam Global Strategies LLC. Khosravi recently retired from CNN after nearly three decades with the company. Throughout her career as Senior Vice President of international newsgathering, domestic newsgathering and global relations for CNN Worldwide, Khosravi led CNN’s historic coverage of countless award-winning news stories. As a CNN executive for over two decades, she led CNN’s key international editorial relationships and finally as the first-ever global Ambassador for CNN, Khosravi met and liaised with world leaders and decision-makers. Khosravi is a recognized authority on safety and security matters for her meticulous and decisive management of CNN’s teams as they covered the world’s most dangerous hotspots, conflicts and natural disasters. Khosravi is also an expert on crisis management, multiculturalism and women-in-the-workforce issues. With unrivaled commitment and passion for international news, Khosravi orchestrated CNN’s largest investment in international newsgathering in its history. Khosravi will put her experience and established global relationships to use in order to make positive change happen and advance the cause of good for humanity with her new endeavor.
Avid Modjtabai is responsible for Wells Fargo’s Payments, Virtual Solutions and Innovation (PVSI) group, and leads nearly 38,000 team members. The PVSI group brings together the company’s robust payments platforms, digital capabilities, and virtual online, mobile and phone channels. PVSI also invests in research and development and strategic partnerships to design and build next-generation products and customer experiences. PVSI includes Consumer Credit Card, Retail Services, Consumer Deposits, Treasury Management, Merchant Services, Payment Strategies, Virtual Channels, Innovation, Operations, and enterprise Marketing. Since joining Wells Fargo in 1993, Modjtabai has served in several senior leadership roles. Prior to leading PVSI, she was the head of Consumer Lending and the enterprise-wide Operations group. Consumer Lending included Home Lending, Dealer Services, Consumer Credit Cards, Student Lending, Personal Lines and Loans and Retail Services. She led more than 65,000 team members who served more than 22 million households, helping consumers with their borrowing needs — from everyday credit needs to major purchases to achieving and sustaining homeownership. The Operations team, which remains under Modjtabai in her new role, includes check processing, statement processing, ATM operations, ACH and wires, fraud disputes, cash vaults, and lockbox. Previously, Modjtabai served as the head of the Technology and Operations Group and Chief Information Officer. As CIO, she was responsible for all core technology functions across the company including computing, data centers, connectivity and voice and data networks, end-user services, enterprise architecture, application development, information security, and technology governance. She was also responsible for the customer conversion activities and the systems and operations integration for Wells Fargo’s merger with Wachovia. Modjtabai also has served as head of Human Resources and led the Internet Services Group. Her early roles at the company included management positions in Consumer Deposits and the Savings & Investment Group, following work at McKinsey & Company, where she focused on strategy initiatives in financial services. 2 / 2 Modjtabai has been named one of the “Most Powerful Women in Banking” by American Banker. The San Francisco Business Times named her one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business” and Bank Technology News recognized her as one of “The Innovators.” Additionally, she received the “Ellis Island Medal of Honor,” awarded for her outstanding personal and professional achievements, coupled with preserving the richness of her heritage. Avid serves on the board of directors for Avnet, Inc., a leading global technology distributor.
Neda Nobari is an Iranian-American business woman, philanthropist and humanitarian. She was born in Tehran and raised in Abadan until she moved to the United States at the age of 15. Her childhood memories of Iran are mostly from Abadan and Khoramshahr since her father, Iman, worked for the National Iranian Oil Company, and was a life-long Sherkati.
After graduating from San Francisco State University in 1984 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Neda spent the next 22 years on building a global fashion brand and raising a family. At bebe, Neda served as the Vice President of Design and Vice Chair of the Board and at home she served as Chief Mom and Vice President of Hospitality.
In 2015, Neda earned her Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies from Dartmouth College while raising her two sons in New England. Neda’s graduate research, which focused on the intersection of diaspora and cultural identity of Iranian-American women, connected her with IAW Foundation Founder, Mariam Khosravani. Since their connection in 2013, Neda has served IAWF as a trustee, Northern California Chapter Chair, and Co-Chair of the last two conferences held in San Francisco.
In addition to leading her own foundation for the past 13 years, Neda has also served on over a dozen nonprofit boards and advisory boards catering to both Iranian and non-Iranian communities. Her philanthropic philosophy and living practice strives to empower the human potential especially those living in the margins of society. To support her commitment to an equitable future, Neda has contributed over $10 Million in grants and endowments to date.
In 2016, Neda established the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at her alma mater, San Francisco State University. The first and only academic institution of its kind, the Center is dedicated to interdisciplinary inquiry of Iranian diaspora experience, its impact on transnational identity, and the exploration of overlooked narratives about what it means to be a hyphenated Iranian. Neda’s conviction for the importance of California’s public higher education system and San Francisco State University’s legacy of racial, ethnic and social justice, made SF State the prefect home for this innovative research center.
Besides her philanthropic support, Neda also serves on the Board of Directors of the University Foundation, bringing to bear institutional and financial practices in pursuit of social and environmental justice.
Katy Saei earned her bachelor’s degree from Marshall Business School of University of Southern California with a minor in accounting. Before her first daughter was warn, Ms. Saei had worked at GW Savings and Loans as a senior accountant. Ms. Saei launched R.J. Equity Partners on 2003 with her husband, and later founded First Financial Capital in 2005. Both companies are family- owned and operated as finance and real estate holding companies. Katy is a managing member of a multi-million dollar family office and is a member and founder of the student housing real estate investments. Ms. Saei has been a managing partner of the firm since its inception. During her sabbatical from the workforce, she spent most of her time with her two daughters while volunteering at schools and after-school programs for children. It was during this period that she found her passion for philanthropy and her interest in social responsibility. Katy believes in creating opportunities for undeserved communities. She is aware that providing resources for those in need would not only significantly improve human welfare, but also it will make a difference at a larger scale. She is an active member of Farhang Foundation; co-chair of the Foundation’s Gala Committee, and a member of its Arts Council. Katy is also a major contributor to the LA Philharmonic and serves on the board of Overseers of the organization. She is also on the Board of Trustees of the IAW Foundation.
Homa Sarshar is a published author, award-winning journalist, writer, and media personality. She is the author of four books and the editor of eleven other volumes, including five volumes of the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation Journal and four volumes of The History of Contemporary Iranian Jews. Homa has worked for Zan-e Ruz weekly magazine and Kayhan daily newspaper, and as a television producer, director, and talk-show host for National Iranian Radio & Television. She moved to Los Angeles in 1978. She was the co-producer of Omid Radio. Since 2006, Sarshar has been producing, writing, and hosting a weekly radio show at 670AM KIRN. Sarshar is the founder of the Center for Iranian Jewish Oral History (CIJOH) and the Honar Foundation (HF). Sarshar has received numerous awards for her work, including the Medal for Special Achievement in Women’s Rights; Journalism Award: Distinguished Iranian Women by the Encyclopaedia Iranica; Commendation for Community Affairs Services by the County of Los Angeles; 2013 Ellis Island Medal of Honor; and 2016 American Heritage Award by American Immigration Council.
“Simin Couture” designs have been a staple of high fashion since 1970s. She has exclusive designs and handmade exquisite pieces and have garnered elite clientele. Simin Taghdiri was born in Iran and immigrated to Manchester, England at a very early age. She studied fashion design at Manchester Metropolitan University. She excelled at her craft and the university sent her to Paris, France, where she learnt the art and discipline of haute couture under renowned designer Pierre Balmain. During her time in Paris, Simin embraced Balmain’s philosophy, he believed “dressmaking is architecture of movement”. Upon completing her studies abroad; Ms. Taghdiri returned to Iran and opened her fashion house. About 800 guests attended her first runway show, among them were 200 members of the time royal family. Simin created over 100 original hand-made pieces, including a custom- made gown for Ms. Farrah Diba, the time queen of Iran. Ms. Diba later named Simin Taghdiri as one of “Iran’s most talented designers”. On 1979, Simin and her family moved to Los Angeles. She has crafted custom gowns for a board range of top clientele and ceremonies including Academy Awards, Grammy awards, BAFTA awards, ESPY awards, Golden Globe awards, BET awards, Emmy awards, Latin Emmy awards, Daytime Emmy awards, CMA awards, the Noble Prize Award ceremony, Royal weddings, Presidential Inauguration and Costumes for television shows and three big screen movies. On 2007, Ms. Taghdiri collaborated with a jewelry; designer and presented the most expensive wedding gown. The gown was valued at $19 million and was featured in over 500 media outlets. And on 2011, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum selected Simin Taghdiri to present a collection of her finest wedding gown for a period of three weeks. The timing of this collection was coincided with Kim Kardashian’s wedding and as a result, Simin was selected to design one of her bridal gowns on Kim’s wax figure. Later on 2011; Ms. Taghdiri was invited to present her couture gowns in Kensington Palace and her gown showcased among the “world’s most prestigious designers”. Simin has received “Distinguished Designer Award” at Mercedes Benz fashion week. She has also been honored by IJW Organization as ‘Woman of the Year”. Simini Taghdiri is a talented designer and in the past decades, she has been involved in numerous charitable causes.
Fatemeh Ziai is Chief of Staff of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support at the United Nations. Previously she served as Chief of Staff to the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General. She has also held a number of other leadership positions at the Organization, including as a Director in the Office of Human Resources Management, working on internal UN reform, Chief of Staff/ Director of Political Affairs in Lebanon, and Chief of the Peacekeeping Training Service. From November 2001 – July 2002, she was a member of the UN team at the Bonn Peace Talks and helped set up the UN Mission that followed in Afghanistan. She also served as a Legal Adviser to the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prior to joining the United Nations, she served as Counsel at Human Rights Watch from 1993- 1996, and was an attorney at Clearly, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton from 1990 – 1993. She received her BA from Brown University (1986) and her JD from Harvard Law School (1990).
EMCEE Asieh Namdar:
Asieh Namdar is an Anchor for CGTN America in Washington, D.C. She comes to CGTN with more than 20 years of experience at CNN, where she served as an anchor for CNNI, a senior writer for HLN, and a contributor to CNN.com. Namdar has written and reported on many international stories, including nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers, wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, the tsunami disaster in Asia, the disputed 2009 election and protests in Iran, and typhoon Haiyan as it hit the Philippines in 2013. Namdar has conducted a number of high-profile interviews, including Nobel Peace-Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Jordan’s Queen Rania, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and best-selling author Azar Nafisi. She has also conducted one-on-one Interviews with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. In 2004, she traveled to ancient city of Bam in Iran for a humanitarian mission after a deadly earthquake. It was her first trip to her native Iran since she left at the age of 12. Asieh has been recognized for her work by numerous Iranian-American organizations.Asieh is originally from Iran and speaks Farsi fluently. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications. Asieh is married to a CNN Journalist and has two daughters, Leila and Roya.
Founded in 2012 by philanthropist and development executive Mariam Khosravani, the Iranian American Women Foundation is dedicated to empowering and inspiring Iranian American women of all ages and career paths through its nationally recognized annual Women’s Leadership Conferences. Thanks to the efforts of the community, the IAWF has expanded its philanthropic efforts by initiating programs to benefit the community it is serving. The goal is to provide a platform for IAWF members to expand on their professional and personal growth. https://www.iawfoundation.org