Cal Poly Business Students Attend AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit

Cal Poly Business students at the AICPA conferenceOrfalea College of Business sent four female finance students to the AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit in Boston in November. Thanks to a generous donation from Oracle, these Cal Poly students attended educational sessions on leadership development and network with high-ranking women in finance, accounting and tech.

Led by finance faculty member Sharon Dobson, Orfalea students Dana Mason, Denise Hensley, Melisa Zarate, and Catherine Ryan gained real-world insights from women presidents, founders and CEOs of major global corporations through keynotes and panels. They also participated in workshops and round tables discussing leadership, strategic planning and more. During the networking sessions, the Orfalea students met the CEO of Oracle, Safra Catz, the Senior Director at Oracle, Anne Ozzimo, and the Vice President of Global Finance at Oracle, Christina Kite.

Cal Ooly students and faculty with Safra CatzThe AICPA Women’s Global Leadership Summit is where supporters of women initiatives and female financial professionals and accountants from all types of business sectors come together to discuss leadership, boardroom diversity and the best skills to enhance women leaders within the financial community. The summit examined barriers to women’s advancement, provided insight and strategies to overcoming these barriers and connected participants to other successful professional women. This year celebrated the fifth anniversary of the summit.

Cal Poly asked each student the three biggest takeaways from the experience in Boston. Here’s what they had to say:

Melisa Zarate

  1. Do not assume what others are thinking, ask! We all think in different ways and learning to ask the right questions is extremely important and allow a team to be transparent and advance in the right direction.
  2. Learning how emotional intelligence can help one be a better leader. As a leader, it is important to know how to control one’s emotions in any given situation and also being able to read another’s emotions. In the business world, having technical skills isn’t enough when leading a team. Recognizing and responding in an appropriate and timely manner to certain emotions is a quality leader’s should seek to posess. Having soft skills is invaluable and goes a long way in preserving a team and moving forward.
  3. Women working n HR were asked what advice they would give the younger generation of workers. They responded by saying that millennials should understand how their mind works and be honest with themselves when applying for a job. Turnover rates are higher than ever and companies are investing themselves in candidates to choose the right fit. Yet, when younger people are asked about themselves, many are not aware of their working style.

Dana Mason:

  1. Make the fun choice – Listening to Safra Catz speak at both the Women in Finance dinner and the conference taught me a lot. The biggest thing it taught me however, was that it is important to make life and career choices that are fun and different. Safra Catz has had an incredible career and many of her biggest and best ideas have come from the idea of doing things that are different and seem fun.
  2. Treat everyone as an equal – although this one is a concept taught to kids in elementary school and one I felt like I already held, I got the chance to witness it in true form at the conference. As the only students there other members of the conference did not look down upon us and treated us as if we were at their level, some of which were quite high up in their companies. This was especially clear when we had lunch with Chris Kite, she engaged with us and asked us questions about our career paths, interests and took genuine interest in our lives and voices.
  3. Ask for what you want – One of the keynote speeches that I connected with most was the “How to Say Anything to Anyone”. The speech portrayed the importance of being able to speak up and speak your mind something I think is extremely important especially as a women in the business world.

Denise Hensley:

  1. Innovation doesn’t just mean technology, it means change. It means adapting to what the industry needs in order to help as many clients as efficiently as possible. Part of the changes that were mentioned at the AICPA was a focus for supporting women in entrepreneurial projects. Helping more women start and fund their businesses will help to diversify innovation.
  2. We need to start looking globally. The actions we make as the world becomes automated are felt by others around the world. We can utilize technology to connect with others globally. Diversity and inclusivity aren’t just regarding race and gender, but cultures beyond our boarders. Knowledge on foreign markets and cultures will help us as business leaders through understanding the needs and wants of individuals who may think differently from us.
  3. You’ll never know what you’ll be doing 10 years from now. But all the women at the conference shared with us that somehow you’ll find yourself gravitating to what you love to do most. Some went from big firms to small firms. Or from firms to non-profit organizations. There will be many opportunities in the future – some that may not be around today but could be tomorrow!

For more information about the event, visit