Event: Iranian American Women Foundation (IAWF) Women’s Leadership Conference

Date: Sunday, June 2, 2019; 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Location: San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront

Cost: $175; available HERE.

The Iranian American Women Foundation, dedicated to providing a platform for empowerment and connecting Iranian American women locally and globally, holds its Women’s Leadership Conference in San Francisco on Sunday, June 2, 2019, at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront.

The conference, which is held internationally from Los Angeles to London, celebrates the diverse achievements of women in the community and also serves as an invaluable networking and learning opportunity to help women advance their careers and enrich their lives in positive ways.

“Iranian American women from all walks of life all have unique gifts that can help empower others to move forward,” says IAWF founder Mariam Khosravani. “Since IAWF was founded in 2012, we have continued to develop and tailor conferences and programs that promote inclusivity and allow women to build bridges to transform their lives and those of the next generations.”

Sharing their expertise and insight through talks and panel discussions, there will be 21 influential, accomplished women, from media guru Susan Akbarpour to social justice expert Niaz Kasravi.

The eight sessions are: Breaking Traditional Taboos, Women Leading Disruption, The Importance of Public Service & Civic Engagement, Meditation: Connecting to Your Higher Self, Leading Millennials, Perfecting Your Pitch: Young Entrepreneurship Showcase, Rising Through Every Descent: Choosing the Right Mindset, My Life…My Choice…My Voice. See the full schedule online.

The session Perfecting Your Pitch: Young Entrepreneurship Showcase is a business pitch competition. Through May 25, 2019 Iranian American women who have founded a company that is in pre-Series B financing can apply online for the opportunity to pitch their company to a panel of highly respected Silicon Valley investors, get pitch feedback and make connections for potential investment follow-ups. Judges will vote on the candidates and the top three companies will be announced during the conference’s closing session to an audience of investors, influencers, and potential customers.

The competitors will pitch to business leaders Susan Akbarpour, CEO and founder of Mavatar Technologies; Shahin Hedayat founding partner of Candou Ventures; and Bobby Yazdani, founder and managing partner of Cota Capital.


Nassim Abdi The CEO and co-founder of Docademia is an entrepreneur, educator, and scholar-activist. She has a Ph.D. in International Education Policy, 12 years of academic teaching experience, and was the lead actress in the 2001 film Secret Ballot, which earned the UNICEF Award at the Venice Film Festival. Her vision for Docademia, which aims to bring social justice issues to life in classrooms, was shaped by the life-changing experience as a cast member of Secret Ballot. It exposed her to the power of films and how candid human connections can change people’s perspectives. Docademia empowers authentic storytelling and institutionalizes social justice education via a single platform connecting the frontline storytellers to education systems. The platform currently connects more than 2,800 filmmakers from 112 countries to classrooms across North America.

Soheila Adelipour The author of the forthcoming book Wrestling With God to (Resting With God) received her bachelor’s degree in Business and her master’s degree in Art Gallery Management while her first two children were in diapers. She was involved New York City’s arts and antiques scene and later ran high-end gift stores. Her life as an active mother of four was shattered when she lost her second son in a tragic fire accident in Boston followed a few years later by the loss of her sister and brother to long, horrific illnesses. Today Adelipour’s main purpose is to give courage and strength to people with her words and experiences. Her motto is “Love life… Live for the ‘Whys’ in your life and not the ‘Why nots’!” She resides in Los Angeles.

Susan Akbarpour As a media guru, innovator, entrepreneur, Akbarpour has more than 30 years of hands-on experience in building innovative products and businesses in technology and media. She is the CEO of Mavatar, the company she co-founded in 2011 based on her graduate research, soon after receiving her MS in Management from Stanford University. Mavatar’s “decentralized marketplace and shoppable content publishing” solutions provide retailers and media companies with a new way to measure impact at the convergence of data intelligence, content and consumer-centric commerce. Susan’s recent mission is leading her world-class team to create mCart, a “decentralized attribution protocol that combines advanced blockchain technology with a fresh approach to basket shopping and influence marketing or user-generated advertising to address lack of transparency and trust in the retail marketing value chain. Akbarpour is one of the most famous and prolific entrepreneurs of her generation, with her thought-provoking and often provocative commentaries shaping the market. Her Forbes articles, blog and social pages are must reads for innovators and the business elite.

Yassamin Ansari is a climate strategist and activist currently working for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, spearheading youth engagement and public mobilization for the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. She also serves as Principle Advisor to Mission 2020— a global climate action campaign convened by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. For her extensive work on climate change, Yassamin was recently recognized as a Grist 50 “Fixer”— “the people cooking up the boldest, most innovative solutions to fix the biggest challenges that face our globe.” Yassamin began her career as a John Gardner Fellow in the Executive Office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, where she served as the youngest member of the climate team that advised the Secretary-General and helped to deliver the historic Paris Agreement. Later, she served as the Director of the Climate Action 2016 Summit in Washington D.C. Yassamin later worked with the Office of Governor Jerry Brown where she served as the Deputy Director of Policy for the Global Climate Action Summit— a historic event that delivered more than 500 new commitments from business, cities, states and regions to tackle climate change.

Beyond climate, Yassamin is also heavily involved in Democratic politics, regularly volunteering for and supporting progressive candidates up and down the ballot. In 2016, she founded the Ansari Fellowship Program, an initiative designed to encourage and empower young Iranian-Americans to pursue public service careers. Yassamin holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations with honors from Stanford University, and a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge. At Stanford, she interned for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, led an international campaign to educate college students about the global refugee crisis through Syria Deeply, and was selected as a national finalist for the Harry Truman Scholarship. Yassamin has received many awards and accolades for her work, including the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship, the Stanford Award of Excellence, and the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, among others.

Sara Azadi spent 19 years working at world-renowned agencies helping clients large and small meet their marketing objectives by untangling complicated business challenges, brand narratives and product platforms into relatable human truths by digging deep into the cross-sections of where culture, consumer and data meet.  At Edelman, the world’s largest marketing communications firm, Sara served as EVP, Managing Director of Digital and Strategy, where she led and built a modern and new marketing offering. Within 5 years, she won 4 Cannes Lions (1 gold, 2 slivers, 1 bronze), while changing how our clients small and large engaged consumers and customers alike in a new, ever-evolving and complicated media landscape. As a client strategist, she guided and counseled executives in a diverse range of industries from Starbucks to Dow and Delta Dental to Walmart and Ghirardelli by solving their biggest business challenges. She re-engineered clients’ marketing strategies towards efficiency and efficacy by deeply listening, articulating and translating brands and product platforms into terms that are most attractive and digestible for the intended target which in turn produced results.

Prior to Edelman, Sara was Director of Client Partnerships at Swirl, Inc, a mcgarrybowen agency. She was in charge of developing marketing strategies, guiding agency innovation and leading partnership strategies. Working with the Grateful Dead, Pandora, Dolby, Microsoft and Red Bull, Sara led and developed an initiative focused on building a community of brands set to redefine the current state of the music industry and elevate the discussion on how artists and corporations can collaborate to create original content while supporting consumers’ current behaviors. Her goal was to make marketing a desirable experience rather than a simple sales aid. Previous to Swirl, Sara enjoyed a nine year tenure at Loomis Group as Vice President. She led the agency’s new business, account management and paid media service teams. She launched and grew Loomis Group’s digital practice serving Google, LinkedIn, YouTube, LG Electronics, Sephora, Ferrari, Hitachi, Broan and StubHub. Sara help launch StubHub into market and through to it’s acquisition by eBay. Sara also drove the innovation of Loomis Group’s offerings from structuring social media best practices when Facebook was still in it’s infancy to helping craft the agency’s approach to developing business solutions and digital products for clients which resulted in creating unique ROI generating solutions for StubHub, Ferrari and Sephora. Prior to developing the digital practice at Loomis Group, Sara led WebEx’s direct marketing account for 4 years.  Starting her own consultancy has also led to Sara to investing in new ideas and companies that motivate, inspire and drive her. Outside of her consultancy, Sara is the Co-Founder and acting CMO at Tushbaby, a growing consumer baby goods company that has been featured on SharkTank. She sits on two boards: Mavatar, a blockchain start-up focused on revolutionizing the retail industry and Latin:SF, a division of Global:SF, focused on attracting entrepreneurs in Latin American to consider San Francisco a place to do business.

Behnoush Babzani has dedicated her life to serving her community as a social entrepreneur, public speaker, certified life coach and writer. Fascinated by people and how they work, Babzani pursued a degree in Sociology from the University of San Francisco. She is a two-time survivor of a rare life-threatening blood disorder and a bone marrow transplant. Though doctors were transparent about the risks of treatment and procedure, Babzani used unique and innovative life tools along with her positive mindset to beat the odds. Through her experience, she learned there is a desperate need for more bone marrow donors on the National Donor Registry. She used that inspiration to found the nonprofit Project Marrow. Babzani shares her experiences and tools throughout the country through public speaking engagements.

Anna V. Eskamani History-making State Representative Eskamani is an Orlando native and daughter of working-class immigrants from Iran who has committed her life to advocating in support of Florida’s hardworking families. With two Bachelor degrees and two Masters degrees, Eskamani worked at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida for six years, rising to become the organization’s Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications. Today she works at NEO Philanthropy as their State Strategic Advisor and is getting her Ph.D. in Public Affairs at the University of Central Florida. On Nov. 6, 2018, Eskamani became the first Iranian-American elected to any public office in Florida. Tough, authentic and unafraid, Eskamani is a progressive who has proven herself as a leader who works hard, delivers results, and gets things done.

Delfarib Fanaie/MAP President & CEO moved to the US as a young woman in 1979. Life here and the affluence and opportunities it offered, only served to highlight for her the plight of impoverished children in her homeland.  She vowed then and there to do something to make a difference, to make some contribution which would help change those children’s lives. In 1999, Delfarib and her husband Farshid Samsami traveled to the country of their birth, Iran, with the intent of adopting a child. The journey lasted several years as they adopted not one but three children. Their travels took them to various orphan care centers in Tehran where they witnessed first-hand the needs of many children. During their last trip, while they were adopting their third child, a young girl, by  the name of Sepideh, came to Delfarib and asked her “why can’t you take me with you…WHY NOT ME?” Stirred by this experience, with no way to respond to this young beautiful girl, Delfarib knew that her life would never be the same. She became determined to inspire friends, family and co-workers to get involved in the plight of impoverished children. MAP was launched in 2008 by a group of such individuals, who believe that, every child deserves a chance to thrive in this world regardless of where they are born. MAP was born with the goal that so that no child has to say, “WHY NOT ME?” Since 2008 MAP has grown into a network of like-minded individuals with the belief and conviction that every act of kindness, no matter how small, can radically change the life of a child.  With a management degree from Pittman School in England and  over 35 years’ experience in the real estate industry, she currently works as an Asset Manager for a well-known real estate investor in the Bay Area.

Katy Harandi is a mother of two, one of whom has autism and co-founded PALS Autism Society to expand existing services for families living with autism. PALS provides specialized education to children, adolescents and young adults with autism. She is the CEO and Board President of Canucks Autism Network, a nonprofit charity delivering sports, social and training programs for children and adolescents living with autism across British Columbia. She was the YWCA 2012 Women of Distinction nominee for her contributions to the community and recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to Canada. Harandi is a member of the Vancouver Board of Trade Women’s Leadership Circle, the Sauder School of Business Women’s Leadership Council, board director of the Adam’s Apples Foundation and the Stanford University Alumni Club in British Columbia. She received her B.A. from Stanford University in Computer Science and an MBA from the Sauder School of Business.

Sima Hashemifar was inspired by drastic life experiences to make a transition and delve into the field of self-actualization through different integrated methods of East/West philosophies. She has tutored courses in the California School of Practical Philosophy. For the past 11 years, Sima has offered speeches and workshops on topics related to spiritual awakening at professional conferences. Currently she is a participant in the Mindfulness Teacher Training Program at UC Berkeley. In her previous life, Hashemifar worked in the semiconductor industry holding senior engineering positions at Intel, National Semiconductor, and KLA-Tencor Corporations. She earned her B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Science and Technology in Tehran, Iran, where she ranked first in her graduating class. And she earned her M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from the University of Washington. While in graduate school, Sima also developed a program for the Women In Engineering (WIE), which resulted in increased numbers of women completing first year of engineering studies. The WIE Association in the U.S. awarded her twice for her contributions.

Shirin Hedayat is a former financial adviser, Shirin Hedayat began her journey into mindfulness about 12 years ago to help with her own stress and life challenges. As the practice of meditation began to profoundly transform her life, she decided to devote her time to leading groups and individuals in mindfulness practices. In 2014, Hedayat received a Master Certification from the Academy of Intuition Medicine, where she completed more than 1,000 hours of meditation, and instruction in Energetic Healing techniques and Spiritual Consultation practices. Hedayat holds a B.S. in Computer Information Systems from San Francisco State and a M.S. in Finance/Investments from Golden Gate University. She worked as a financial adviser and a registered principal for 15 years with a focus on managing assets of small- to medium-size companies.

Hon. Nahal Iravani-Sani is a Superior Court Judge presiding in Santa Clara County, California. Prior to joining the bench, she was a Deputy District Attorney for 22 years prosecuting crimes through all phases of the criminal justice system. Dedicated to education and mentorship, Judge Iravani-Sani instructs Trial Advocacy at Stanford Law School and Santa Clara University School of Law. She enjoys serving as a mentor to the next generation of trial attorneys. As an immigrant to the United States at a young age, Judge Iravani-Sani is passionate about her role as an ambassador of the Iranian-American community, and giving back to her adopted country. She has served in leadership positions on nonprofit community and professional organizations, including the boards of the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), Pars Equality Center, and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA). In 2017, Governor Brown appointed Honorable Iravani-Sani as the first Iranian-American judge ever to serve on the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Negin Kamangar serves as Head of Marketing for Small and Medium Businesses at Cornerstone OnDemand, a global talent management provider where she is focused on driving revenue through demand generation, product and content marketing strategies. Prior to Cornerstone, Negin was Vice President of Product Strategy and Growth at the Apollo Group, responsible for developing product strategies and partnerships to drive acquisition, retention and career outcomes of students. Negin has vast experience in developing go-to-market strategies for global brands as well as startups, where she has launched products and services in education, financial products, technology and consumer entertainment at companies such as Schwab, Adobe and Walt Disney. Negin holds an MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a BS in Marketing from Santa Clara University.

Dr. Niaz Kasravi is a national expert and advocate on criminal justice, social justice, and racial justice, with more than 17 years of experience leading campaigns across the country, including on police accountability, racial profiling, and death penalty abolition. Dr. Kasravi is the founder and director of the Avalan Institute, a research, advocacy and training institute focused on connecting just and objective data to organizations working to create a more fair and effective system of justice. She has previously served as Director of the Criminal Justice Program at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Associate for the Domestic Human Rights Program of Amnesty International USA. Dr. Kasravi holds a Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society from the University of California, Irvine. In 2000, via a National Science Foundation grant, she traveled to Iran to work with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi on women’s rights and justice reform.

Yasmin Khorram is a San Francisco-based field producer for CNBC where she covers technology and business news. Prior to CNBC, Khorram was an Emmy-nominated producer for CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. During her tenure at CNN, she worked on several prime time shows and wrote numerous high-profile stories for CNN.com. Khorram’s experience includes coverage of the 2016 presidential election for which she produced live shows for the political conventions, debates and the inauguration. She also produced exclusive stories for the investigative unit during the Pulse Nightclub terror attack in Orlando and the Chattanooga shooting rampage. She was also the first to interview crew members on the ill-fated El Faro. She contributed to CNN Style where she covered events such as The Oscars and New York Fashion Week. As a multimedia journalist, Khorram’s work appears across all CNBC and CNN platforms: television, digital, and mobile. A graduate of Whittier College, where she majored in Journalism and World Affairs, Khorram launched the school’s first television station and has been invited back to her alma mater as a guest speaker.

Dr. Shokooh Miry is a psychologist and serves as Commissioner for the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. Dr. Miry attended UC Berkeley and Stanford University. She was honored to complete her training at the Stanford Hospital Department of Psychiatry. In 2008, she completed a fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. Dr. Miry specializes in evidence-based treatment, and has extensive research and clinical experience working with mood, anxiety, and eating disorders. Dr. Miry serves on the board of directors of several high-impact, non-profit organizations. She is Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Iranian American Council. She serves as President of the Board of Directors of Lone Mountain Children’s Center. She is also on the Auxiliary Board of the San Francisco Ballet. Dr. Miry is a proud immigrant who moved from Iran to San Francisco at the age of one with her parents.

Mitra Mostofi is the author of This Was No Coincidence, a book about the importance of self-awareness in the context of life-altering events. She immigrated to the U.S. from Iran when she was four years old. She survived a war, identity crisis and cancer. Now she uses her experience to not just survive but to truly live. She narrated her life-altering journey with breast cancer at 27 with the understanding that the power of self awareness can lead us to truly living. Her background is in the medical field and she plans on utilizing the knowledge of the physical health in mind-body awareness. She moderated an interfaith dialogue in 2015 that successfully brought connectivity through self-actualization in a polarizing time. She is a graduate of More to Life and Landmark Forum. She visions publishing her next book along with speaking arrangements to continue to inspire and be inspired.

Sahar Shams is an entrepreneur, speaker, and a multi-award-winning artist, with more than 14 years of experience in children’s education in animation, books and apps. She has won at the Iran Video Games Foundation’s National Festival of Character Design and has earned many awards as an illustrator and designer. Her app has been featured on VOA, Paradox, Techtonics, IPS and many other media. Shams has firsthand experience dealing with childhood trauma. Now, she shares her authentic experiences to help people going through uncertain times in their lives. She believes that trauma can “be your power. If it’s not yet, it can be your power as soon as you shift your perception enough to milk the wisdom of that experience in your life.”

Sepi Shyne is an Iranian-American business and trademark attorney, energy healer, animal communicator and an LGBTQ+ civil rights advocate. She has been featured on radio, TV and Internet blogs as one of the best alternative healers in Los Angeles. Shyne serves as an appointed member of the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board for the City of West Hollywood. She is a past co-president of the LGBT Bar Association of Los Angeles during which she was interviewed on CNN on the Jane Valez Mitchell show about hate crimes. She currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign LA as Co-Chair of Community Engagement. Shyne ran for West Hollywood City Council in March 2019 and came within 141 votes of beating a two-term incumbent and plans to run again in 2020. She lives in West Hollywood with her wife and their fur-babies

Elica Vafaie is a Staff Attorney & Program Manager of the National Security & Civil Rights Program at Advancing Justice- Asian Law Caucus and the President of the Iranian American Bar Association Northern California Chapter. Her work focuses on civil rights and immigration cases, particularly the Muslim Travel Ban. Elica formerly worked as the Supervising Attorney to establish the University of California Immigration Legal Services Center providing free immigration legal services to U.C. students across California. She was also the Project Director of the One Nation Initiative at the California Community Foundation where she managed the first philanthropic program in Southern California providing over $1 million in grants to Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian community-based nonprofit organizations. Elica received her B.A. from U.C. Irvine and Sciences Po, Paris. She received her J.D. from U.C. Davis School of Law.

Maryam Zar is a Commissioner on the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women. She is an Iranian-born American and former Middle East correspondent based in Iran. She is Chair of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, Vice-Chair of the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils, founding Chair of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and an elected Assembly Delegate. In 2016, she was LA County Volunteer of the Year and named LAFD Honorary Fire Chief. In 2010, Maryam founded Womenfound, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of women around the globe, as well as raising money for charities and foundations that help them. She is mother to three as well as a wife, daughter, sister and humanitarian. She is active in her community and works closely with local officials on matters of community interest. She is a regular commentator on a wide range of issues.

Master of Ceremonies

Lily Jamali is the co-host of KQED’s The California Report, a daily newscast airing on National Public Radio affiliates throughout the state. Based in San Francisco, she has traveled the state covering the humanitarian crisis along the Mexican border, the 2018 Camp Fire, and PG&E’s entry into bankruptcy protection. Since arriving at KQED in 2018, she has interviewed newsmakers including Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Mary Daly. Prior to joining KQED, Lily was an anchor and executive producer at Bloomberg TV Canada. At Bloomberg, she steered markets and economics coverage for her broadcast “Bloomberg Markets: Canada”. She was part of the team that helped execute Bloomberg TV’s partnership with Canada’s Business News Network (BNN). From 2014 to 2016, Lily reported on tech and finance for Reuters TV, where she provided coverage from the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Aspen Ideas Festival. Lily has traveled the world as a freelance correspondent. In 2012, PRI/BBC’s “The World” sent her to Brazil to report on public safety in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the impact of the Eurozone crisis on immigration. She’s also covered ethnic conflict and reconciliation in Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka. Her awards and grants include a South Asian Journalists Association Reporting Fellowship to cover the impact of climate change on the Maldives, the National Press Photographers Association’s Paul Threlfall Award, and a Mid-Career Grant from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.


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. More information: www.iawfoundation.org

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