As a female leader at GHJ, I feel so lucky we have amazing and strong women leaders. But of course, luck has nothing to do with it!

GHJ is focused on women’s empowerment. As a result, we are enjoying the many benefits that come with so many strong female leaders. These leaders serve as role models, mentors and champions. It is easy to take them for granted. Many make it look easy. Like the Maybelline ad, "maybe she's born with it".

However, one of the many take-aways from the CalCPA Women's Forum is that great female leaders, entrepreneurs and trailblazers all became successful by being self-aware, stretched and thinking big.

Be aware

Sorry for the shocking news, but men and women are very different. We are hardwired to think and react differently.

When under stress we all have a “Fight or Flight” chemical reaction that happens in our body. It is fascinating when listening to a topic on how the unconscious cave person within us manifests itself. An example provided was the scenario of how both genders respond in a stressful or tense meeting. Men tended to make themselves big, with strong posture, and intense vocal tones. Women in the same setting focused on being liked and thought of as non-threatening, so they make themselves small and overly smiley.

It can be in our little mannerisms that we are sending a big message. A message we may not be aware we are sending. Being unaware of the message our body language and vocal tone sends is extra dangerous for women in business since it might come across as uncertain or weak.


One session at the forum was about negotiation. In short, women have trouble making "the ask". To negotiate you need to be clear about what you want, and be fearless in asking for your aspiration.

Having worked in the business of developing talent for more than a decade, I know that learning best occurs when you are outside of your comfort zone. That is where the magic happens. It is taking some risks, and not being afraid of a “no” - stretching outside of our fear of rejection and goal of perfection.

Think Big

I could not understand why thinking big was a theme. Is this gender-specific advice or just a good practice? It is probably the latter, but I could deduct that more female role models and the right supportive environment would make it easier to think big.

At GHJ we are asked to #BeMore, and keep challenging the status quo. We are asked to put our energy in the right places, those that add value. Those professionals that do this best, think big and are not put off by unanswered questions or details. Instead, they are relentless in finding solutions. I am proud that this year Donella Wilson, partner and nonprofit leader at GHJ, was awarded the CalCPA Trailblazer Woman to Watch award. I appreciate being able to “watch” such a professional who indeed emulates the success factors presented at CalCPA: she is aware of her impact, stretches herself and those around her with her exciting vision for our nonprofit practice. With leaders like Donella, our GHJ “luck” will surely continue with future generations of trailblazers to come.