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|Member Spotlight: Alicia Berhow|
Vice President of Workforce Development and Advocacy, Orange County Business Council
President, California Board of Accountancy
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership to me means learning new things, taking opportunities and experiences and using them to solve problems or advance the cause, either in our community or in our profession. As President of the California Board of Accountancy (CBA), my goal is to ensure that our consumers are protected, but also ensure that our Certified Public Accountants have the tools they need to succeed and be highly effective at their job. Ultimately, I like to problem solve. If I see something that needs to addressed in my day job or while serving on a charitable board, being a leader means being curious, open-minded, and working together to move an agenda forward.
How has your experience with CA Women Lead helped you advance personally or professionally?
Personally, CA Women Lead has really done a great job in helping women understand that they don’t have to be an expert on a subject to be able to serve on a board or commission. And that was a big self-esteem builder for me. As a public member for a regulatory board, it was nerve-racking joining the CBA. Women are often afraid of looking or sounding uninformed, but a member of CA Women Lead told me, (A) you can’t learn it in a day, (B) it is your job to be curious, to ask questions on behalf of the public. I am their voice. It really empowered me to be a good public servant to the consumers that use the services of a CPA. Professionally, it allowed me to expand my portfolio and my knowledge base on more than what I do in my day job. It has made me a more well-rounded person which I’m very appreciative of.
Tell us about your appointment to the California Board of Accountancy. Why did you apply for an appointment and what have you learned from the experience?
I am a Speaker’s appointee to the CBA. I applied for to be on the California Board of Accountancy because it is completely different than what I do in my professional life. I wanted that diversity of thought. I wanted to learn something new. And it has been quite the experience. Being a member of the CBA allows me to branch out and tackle completely different issues that are impacting Californians. Not being a CPA myself, I appreciate the high standards and requirements to join this profession. I was also drawn to the CBA because I see it as a law and order organization. This is important to me as a public member in order to protect the public from abuse.
Why do you believe it is important for women to get involved in their community and/or run for elected office?
We need all our boards, commissions and elected offices to appropriately reflect the community in which we live. But looking at gender for a moment, 50% plus of our population are women. Currently, in the House of Representatives, where I used to work as a staffer, only 83 women are elected representatives. That’s 19%. How are we to make informed, thoughtful decisions for a profession, cities, counties, and congressional districts if we only see and hear 19% of the story? That alone made my decision to apply for the CBA all the more important. We have 15 board members and eight of us are women. Seven of the board members are people of color. One of our members is openly gay. Every one of these voices are important. Even more so when they reflect the state they represent. I’m incredibly proud of the work Governor Brown, Appt. Secretary Mona Pasquil, and former Speakers’ Perez and Atkins have done to diversify and expand the roles of women and minorities.
What is one obstacle you have faced in your professional career, and how did you overcome it?
Just one?! One that stands out to me was getting laid off several years ago. The company I worked for was restructuring, which I completely understood and accepted. The company H.R. manager said I could take a demotion or accept the lay off and severance. When I met with the new district manager, I asked him if I took the demotion, would he support me moving up the corporate ladder? I had been employed three years, obtained a college degree and had good standing with the company He point blank said that he would never support moving me up from the position I was being offered. I walked out that day. I knew my self-worth and I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me I wasn’t good enough. Needless to say, there have been many obstacles in my career, but every one of those issues were overcome by trusting my instinct and asking for help. I consider every one of those obstacles a learning experience and it has made me stronger and more resilient.
What is one thing your colleagues may not know about you?
Hmmm… That although I’m afflicted with chronic asthma and am the worst runner ever, I’ve completed nine half marathons. It’s one of the things in my life I’m most proud of. You don’t have to be the best at any one particular thing to succeed.