Board How Women Lead

executive board of advisors

The Executive Board of Advisors is a powerful group of female thought leaders and active members who have helped to grow the organization since the beginning. Board responsibilities include:

  • Connecting and guiding efforts regarding trends and thought leadership; guiding the decisions on topics, speakers, and leaders

  • Ensuring important communities of women leaders are engaged 

  • Advising on powerful ways to make an impact


Julie Castro Abrams, Founder and CEO, How Women Lead

Julie Castro Abrams is an expert in board governance and building diverse boards that are a strategic advantage. She is an experienced non profit CEO and entrepreneur and through her consulting practice she supports leaders to build high-performance boards, break through performance for the leaders and high performing multicultural teams. She is Chair and CEO of How Women Lead, a network of over 10,000 women dedicated to promoting diverse women’s voices and propelling women’s leadership forward as well as the Managing Partner of where she actively places leaders on corporate boards and supports them to build inclusive and high-performance boards.


An active investor and advisor to start-ups, Julie also sits on the advisory boards of the fin-tech start-up LENDonate, The New Search Collaborative and is the Governance Chair for the Women’s Funding Network, a network of women’s foundations across the globe. She has previously led the board of multiple nonprofit organizations located throughout the country, including Board Director for the National Council of La Raza, Governance Chair for the Association for Enterprise Opportunity and Board Chair of Cypress String Quartet.


The recipient of many accolades, Julie has won the More Jobs Genius Award, the Morgan Stanley Innovation Award, Cisco’s Innovation in Technology Award, the League of Women Voters’ Women Who Could Be President Award, the Stevie Award for Best Non-Profit Executive, and the Commission on the Status of Women’s Human Rights Award, and is a member of the Women of Color Action Network, Leadership California, and the Marin Women's Hall of Fame. She has also been featured in four books, including “Scrappy Women in Business,” “Women of Courage,” and “The Missing Mentor,” and Fast Company’s video series “30 Second MBA.”

Noni Allwood, Principal, Noni Allwood & Associates

Noni Allwood’s career spans over 20 years as an executive, an entrepreneur and an innovator. Her corporate career includes senior roles for Fortune 500 companies, including Cisco, Tandem Computers, and Exxon Corporation. As an entrepreneur, she is founder of Noni Allwood & Associates and co-founder of Innovo21. In the area of Diversity and Inclusion, Ms. Allwood is a Senior Fellow & Senior Advisor to the Center for Talent Innovation, leading research and innovation of practices to advance women and multicultural talent globally.


Her roles and contributions in the corporate world include education, research and innovation of practices for the optimization of talent, having established a Global Gender Diversity function for Cisco Systems. As an expert in business operations, Ms. Allwood established a function to integrate acquisitions into a global sales organization, created a learning and development group for a global sales force, managed a transformation project for sales operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa and developed a company-wide project management methodology for use by the global sales organization.  


Ms. Allwood is Senior Fellow and Senior Advisor to the Center for Talent Innovation, a highly regarded think tank where she leads research and seeding of practices to accelerate integration of all streams of talent.  Her client base includes Fortune 500 corporations including technology, healthcare, biotechnology, travel, electronics manufacturing and non-profit industries.


Ms. Allwood currently serves on the Board of Geographic Expeditions. She is a member of the Advisory Boards to the Gender Equality Principles Initiative of the City and County of San Francisco and Co-Chair of the Advisory Board for Professional Business Women of California.  She is currently a member of the Bay Area Council for Vital Voices, a global organization dedicated to the development of women leaders globally. Ms. Allwood has a degree in Industrial Engineering from Universidad Centroamericana (El Salvador) and completed the Stanford University School of Business Executive Program.


In 2004, she was honored with the Inspirational Immigrant Award from Upwardly Global. In 2007, she was recognized by Flexperience, as one of the “Top 25 Bay Area Women Redefining Success.” In June of 2008, Mexican American Community Services Agency of San Jose, California named Ms. Allwood one of the “Most Influential Latinos in Silicon Valley”.

Christina Bui, Chief Revenue Officer/SVP Business Development, ‎Kranz & Associates

Christina Bui is the Chief Revenue Officer/SVP Business Development for ‎Kranz & Associates. She was most recently the Vice President of Enterprise Solutions for Robert Half the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm.  Christina partnered with the professional staffing divisions of Robert Half and the consulting organization of Protiviti, its wholly-owned subsidiary, to develop business consulting and project staffing engagements.  With a focus in finance/accounting project-based engagements, she helped prepare companies for transactions such as IPO, mergers and acquisitions.  

Before joining Robert Half, Christina was an Associate Managing Partner for Tatum, a national interim CFO firm. Prior to joining Tatum, Christina was responsible for market development as Vice President for the North West region of Parsons Corporation, one of the largest engineering and constructions firms. Christina has also worked with venture capital company Encore Capital Management where she performed financial analyses on investment opportunities for publicly traded companies. Within Encore Capital Management, she was involved with and helped launch a fund with one of the firm’s venture capital projects in Vietnam. Prior to Encore, Christina was part of the Corporate Government Affairs team of Johnson & Johnson and represented the healthcare company on Capitol Hill pertaining corporate and health care issues.

Christina holds a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Affairs and French from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in corporate finance from Johns Hopkins University.

Christina DeSantis, Founder and Principal, DeSantis Consulting

Chris’ desire to make the world a more just and equitable place started at an early age through Girl Scouting where she saw firsthand the true value of Leadership and Service – sound leadership can right injustice; service to others creates equality and equity.  She worked in development for several New York-based nonprofits including God’s Love We Deliver and WNET Public Television before transitioning to the corporate arena.  After a nice run in business development with an at the time termed,  “dot-com”, she joined AXA Financial where she led two key marketing teams tasked to drive financial planning and retirement savings business in the nonprofit, municipality and social service sectors.  Upon moving to the Bay Area, Chris founded a consulting practiced geared toward providing marketing and business development services to nonprofit organizations and women-owned small businesses.  She volunteers for the Open A Door Foundation where she is part of a mentoring team that supports a young Rwandan woman currently studying engineering as a sophomore at Bucknell University.  She also sits on the Board of the Federal Assurance Credit Union in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Stacey Kelly Egide, Founder and CEO, Andalou Naturals

As Andalou Naturals’ CEO, Stacey brings her expertise and intuitive vision to create authentic beauty products with meaningful cruelty-free, organic, and non-GMO standards. As an activist for healthy choices, Stacey’s interest in sustainability extends beyond the natural products world; devoting her time, passion and resources to promote sustainable peace through education, equality, and empowerment for women and girl’s worldwide. 100% of the proceeds from Andalou Naturals ‘A Path of Light’ Hand Creams goes to fund socially responsible programs. Stacey is actively involved at the local level and beyond as President and Chair of the Egide Family Foundation, Charter Member of the Bay Area Council of Vital Voices Global Partnership, and as a SHE-CAN Mentor.

Vivienne Hsu, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, LENDonate

Vivienne’s vision at LENDonate is to create a new ecosystem for nonprofit finances. This idea was a culmination of her 20+ years of experience as an investment professional and a seasoned nonprofit fundraiser.

Prior to her work as a social entrepreneur, Vivienne was Senior Vice President at U.S. Trust, where she advised clients on a wide range of investments. She served a Senior Portfolio Manager for Charles Schwab Investment Management where she oversaw its active equity strategies and was the lead portfolio manager for the Schwab Hedged Equity Fund. Prior to that, she was at American Century Investments where she co-managed mutual funds that totaled more than $10 billion. Rounding out her experience was investment risk consultant at MSCI Barra, and pension actuarial work on retirement plans.

Vivienne’s volunteer fundraising experience includes a one-year position as development director at Women’s Initiative for Self Employment. She has led three successful capital campaigns ($5m+ total) at her church, among other volunteer positions.

She received an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also received an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics. She is a Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) charterholder.

Sheila Ellian Lewis, CEO & Ashton212 Navigator, Ashton212

Described as an innovative, creative, and solutions-driven business strategist, brand stylist, and small business expansion facilitator, Sheila brings a calm intensity and “will do” confidence and attitude to her work and charitable activities. She is known as an energetic entrepreneur with a keen ability to see the global picture. She combines an MBA in Marketing and Finance with more than 15 years of progressive corporate success in consumer marketing and new product development, having held management positions with Visa International, the Quaker Oats Company, and Lane Bryant (a Division of The Limited, Inc.).

In 1997, she founded Flyin' West LLC, a firm providing strategic and tactical

marketing and business consulting services. Flyin’ West consultants, including sole contributors and full-service specialty firms, were assigned in teams.  A partial client list includes: U.S. Bank, HSBC, Wells Fargo Bank, Dun & Bradstreet, LCA Vision, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Nationwide Insurance, and Visa as well as a number of middle-market and nonprofit clients across the U.S.

Looking to expand her service capabilities, in early 2012, Sheila was joined by partner Mary Ann Munro, in establishing Ashton212, LLC (Ashton212). Ashton212 is a unique consulting firm, providing specialized talent to companies and large non-profit organizations and industries to resolve their immediate and limited-term workforce challenges and project-based initiatives. Services are provided through a traditional professional contingent staffing model; through the firm’s Signature Programs™ where teams of experts consult in 5 key areas for organizational success; via full-time search; and through Ashton212’s expansion facilitation program for businesses with revenue between $2.5M and $50M.

Sheila is dedicated to exhibiting and teaching solid leadership principles and characteristics with a particular focus on women and minorities. She has held several volunteer leadership positions including the Chair of the Board of Astra Women’s Business Alliance, the west coast women’s business certification arm of WBENC. Sheila presently sits on the Northwestern Board of Directors of Operation Hope, a financial literacy and dignity organization; serves on the Leadership Committee of 2.Oakland whose mission is to build and support the tech ecosystem in Oakland and the East Bay; is on the Executive Board of Advisors for Bay Area Women Leader’s Network, a group of influential women leaders in corporation and philanthropy; and is a member of the Economic Development Committee of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, Sheila is a sought after speaker on the topic of successful entrepreneurship and serves as an emcee for several Bay Area events. Sheila earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Marketing and Management from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.B.A. with highest honors in Marketing and Finance from Atlanta University.

Mercedes Martin, President & CEO, Mercedes Martin & Company

Mercedes Martin is a dynamic senior executive with an extensive and varied management background leading high-level organizational development, talent management, and diversity initiatives for large multi-national organizations. She is recognized as a respected leader and advocate for aligning programs with the company's needs to impact growth, profitability, and human capital. She is a highly sought after speaker and consultant in the areas of organizational assessment, cultural globalization, and leadership development. She has presented to National Organizational Development Network (ODN), Society of Intercultural Education and Training and Research (SIETAR), National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE), UC Berkeley. Mercedes is currently the Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Ernst & Young, a global leader in in assurance, tax, transaction, advisory services and strategic growth markets. She joined the company in 2007 as an Assistant Director and Development Consultant and was quickly promoted into her current role where she leads the design, development and implementation of employee development and talent management strategies. She also provides consulting, coaching and business partner leadership to the executive leadership group. Some of her biggest accomplishment at EY include: launching company-wide change initiatives in Midwest, Mexico City and Central America; increasing client relationships by 10% of total clients; and rolling out the internationally recognized “Team Acceleration Program" that has increased team effectiveness and employee engagement.

Prior to her role at EY, Mercedes co-founded and led the day-to-day operations at InPartnership Consulting, an organizational development and strategic change firm that specialized in resolving cross-cultural conflicts and rebuilding workplace teams through Latino and African American leadership programs. In this capacity, she engaged with numerous Fortune 50 companies, including Proctor and Gamble, Shell Oil, Kellogg's and PepsiCo to assess, design and deliver programs that fostered inclusive environments in which leadership and teamwork could flourish. Earlier in her career, Mercedes served the United States as a member of the United States Air Force where she obtained the position of Staff Development Officer and achieved Master Facilitator in "Total Quality Management". One of her major responsibilities was to train officers and enlisted medical personnel towards satisfying their professional leadership requirements, which played a major role in shaping her career path. Mercedes has a Master of Science in Leadership Development from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelor of Science in Transcultural Nursing from the University of Miami. Additionally, she obtained a Facilitator and Training Certificate from UC-Berkeley. She is a member of over a dozen professional organizations and serves on the advisory board of the Women's Leadership Institute at John F. Kennedy University.

Barbara Waxman, Gerontologist, Leadership Coach, Speaker & Author The Middlescence Factor

Barbara Waxman is a gerontologist, leadership coach, and speaker whose insights are illuminating a crucial stage in our personal and professional lives: Middlescence. Between ages 45 and 65, right when we should be embracing life at the peak and taking advantage of our hard-earned wisdom, we often find ourselves tangled in questions about where we’ve been and what’s next. In her forthcoming book, she shows how this new life stage can be a powerful period of self-actualization and an invaluable opportunity to reset our goals, our strategies, and our sense of what really matters. In adolescence, we all experienced a major transition in who we were and how we saw the world. In Middlescence, we encounter another major change... but this time, we can marshal the wisdom and wherewithal to have take full advantage of the promise of this life stage. As one of the foremost gerontologist-coaches in the United States, Barbara is known for inspiring clients and listeners with insights so that they can be effective in planning for themselves and their leadership at home, at work, and in their communities. Certified by both the International Coach Federation and The Hudson Institute, Barbara holds Masters Degrees in Both Administration and Gerontology and is a Wexner Heritage Foundation Fellow. Her work has been featured in, Fortune, Newsday, U.S. News & World Report, AARP The Magazine, and more. In consulting and coaching, she brings personal and professional experience to an effective, results-oriented collaboration. Her ability to inspire others with compassion, honesty and a light heart, while incorporating cutting edge leadership principles, distinguishes Barbara’s work. Originally from New York, Barbara lives in Northern California, though in 2015 she and her husband, Scott, spent the year “re-potting” in Italy. Barbara’s community involvement includes work with various non-profits including SHE-CAN and Beyond Differences. She is a lifelong learner who loves hiking cooking yoga and stepping just outside of her comfort zone.

Ebony Frelix, Philanthropic Advisors Committee

Jenny C. Flores, Philanthropic Advisors Committee

Stefani Willis, Philanthropic Advisors Committee

Lakshmi Karan, Philanthropic Advisors Committee

Stacey Keare, Philanthropic Advisors Committee

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