2015: Momentum

In 2015, an incredible team of people brought our first event, Momentum, to life. A sold-out audience joined to hear extraordinary ideas around how women have arrived at the places we are today and inspiring ideas around where we might venture tomorrow.

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Nancy Bennett

Virtual Reality Storyteller

As a video/music director and producer, entrepreneur, executive and ball of energy, Nancy Bennett’s talents have pulsed through the heart of the media world for more than 25 years. Not content to just create music projects for the likes of Tori Amos, Led Zeppelin, The Beastie Boys, Ringo Starr and Ray Charles; or to work with visionaries like Jimmy Iovine, Angus Wall, Marcus Nispel and Sean Penn; she has founded multiple businesses that staked out the next wave in the confluence of technology, film, television, and advertising.

Bennett is currently the Chief Content Officer for Two Bit Circus, an interdisciplinary team of artists, inventors, engineers, educators and entrepreneurs passionate about reimagining all forms of entertainment. They have been on-camera inventors for network television, built viral videos for rock bands, and created massive spectacles for large brands. Clients include Amazon, Intel, Nvidia, the Girl Scouts of America, IBM, and Dave & Buster’s. While redefining modern amusement, Two Bit Circus is working to inspire young minds to explore careers in STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art, and math through STEAM Carnival, the carnival reimagined with fire, lasers, and robots! [www.steamcarnival.com] Bennett holds a B.A. in Music and a M.S. in Film from Boston University. She is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America, BAFTA and Grammy.org, has served as panelist for the NEA Media Arts and is a professor at Boston University’s Masters in New Media and Business Administration Program here in Los Angeles.

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Joelle Casteix

Child Safety and Parent Expert, Author

Joelle Casteix is author of the upcoming book THE WELL-ARMORED CHILD: A PARENTS’ GUIDE TO PREVENTING ABUSE. She is also the leading national “in the trenches” expert on the prevention and exposure of child sex abuse and cover-up. A successful writer and blogger, her other books include THE COMPASSIONATE RESPONSE: HOW TO HELP AND EMPOWER THE ADULT VICTIM OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE and YES, MY SON. WINE IS ONE OF THE FIVE FOOD GROUPS.

A former journalist, educator, and public relations professional, Joelle has taken her own experience as a victim of child sex crimes and devoted her career to exposing abuse, advocating on behalf of survivors, and spreading abuse prevention strategies for parents and communities.

Since 2003, Joelle has been the volunteer Western Regional Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. In that capacity, she has traveled the world exposing abusers, helping victims get healing, justice and accountability, and researching predatory abuse patterns in institutions.

Her expertise includes an in-depth understanding and recognition of patterns of abuse, predatory behaviors, grooming, prevention, institutional disregard, and criminal cover-up.

She also conducts trainings for families, churches and communities on how to raise empowered children and keep our communities safe from child sexual abuse. In addition to her work for victims, she is dedicated to the arts, sitting on the board of directors for the Follman/Young Foundation for the Arts.

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Frank Chechel

Risk Assessment Specialist

Frank Chechel is a results-oriented insurance executive with more than 15 years of achievement, spanning product development, marketing and strategic planning.

Beyond work, Chechel is husband to a successful psychiatrist, father to a determined seven year old girl and coach to an enthusiastic Under-8 girls’ soccer team.  He is interested in exploring how men can help to increase women’s positive momentum at work, at home and in their community.

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Alex Cohen

Public Radio Host, Roller Derby Athlete

Alex Cohen is co-host of Southern California Public Radio’s “Take Two” show. “Take Two” is the top-rated public radio show in America’s largest market on the West Coast. Cohen has also served as the station’s afternoon and evening news anchor.

Prior to her work at SCPR, Alex was a reporter and host for several NPR programs as well as American Public Media’s “Marketplace” and “Weekend America.”   Cohen also previously served as the L.A. Bureau Chief for KQED FM in San Francisco.  She has won various journalistic awards including the LA Press Club’s Best Radio Anchor prize.

As her roller derby ‘alter-ego,’ Axles of Evil, Cohen made a cameo appearance and served as the trainer and choreographer for the Drew Barrymore derby film “Whip It.” She is also the co-author of the book “Down and Derby: The Insider’s Guide to Roller Derby.”

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Ron Florance

Investment Advisor

Ron Florance is the founder of RMF Consulting LLC., and the Senior Strategic Advisor and member of the Advisory Board of Robertson Stephens. He advises on comprehensive strategic asset allocation, investment strategy and investment solutions and is responsible for communicating the firm’s global investment strategy at conferences, academic lectures and continuing education programs.

Florance is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and has more than 30 years of experience in the investment management industry. His expertise includes global asset allocation, equity research, fixed income research and portfolio design and management. He recently retired as Deputy Chief Investment Officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. His prior corporate experience included roles at The Vanguard Group, Wells Fargo Nikko Investment Advisors and The Private Bank at Bank of America.

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Allison Gryphon


Allison W. Gryphon is a novelist, filmmaker and breast cancer fighter with a passion for story and living life to the fullest.

Allison’s first feature film, La Cucina, for which she wrote the screenplay, was released on Showtime in 2010. La Cucina won ‘Best Picture’ at The Beloit International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Backlot Film Festival, as well as ‘Best Screenplay’ at the Bragacine Festival International de Cinema.

Allison’s first novel, the thriller Blood Moon, is on shelves now. Blood Moon is the first book in Allison’s Witches Moon Trilogy.

In 2011, Allison was diagnosed with stage IIIa breast cancer. Everything came to a halt, but only for a moment. The first thing she did was look for a movie that could help her understand what she would face in her cancer battle both physically and emotionally. The movie didn’t exist – so she decided to make it!

A long-time member of the Hollywood community, Allison asked for help, and the response was overwhelming. Many of Hollywood’s most gifted offered her their talents, time and hearts. The result is Allison’s directorial debut – the feature documentary What the F@#- is Cancer and Why Does Everybody Have it?

Along with the film, a collection of personal stories and programs focusing on specific cancers, treatments and experiences will be released through a DVD series entitled “The What? Series”.

Allison is working to make getting through the day-to-day of fighting cancer easier for people through her newly created The Why? Foundation.

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Cristi Hegranes

Founder, Global Press Institute

Cristi Hegranes is the Founder and Executive Director of Global Press Institute (GPI) and the Publisher and Executive Editor of Global Press Journal (GPJ). A 2013 Ashoka Fellow, she is an experienced social entrepreneur, a media innovation pioneer, and a renowned international journalism trainer.

GPI, founded by Hegranes in 2006, is an award-winning, high-impact social venture that uses journalism as a development tool to educate, employ, and empower women in developing media markets to produce professional local news coverage that elevates global awareness and catalyzes social change. GPI has trained and employed 159 journalists across 26 developing countries, including Guatemala, Cameroon, India, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, and Sri Lanka.

Previously, Hegranes had a successful career as a journalist for Village Voice Media in New York and San Francisco. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism from New York University and a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She also served as a fellow-in-residence at the Poynter Institute and has taught courses in entrepreneurship and journalism at San Francisco State University and California State University, East Bay.

Hegranes has received a wide range of prestigious social entrepreneurship and journalism accolades. She is the recipient of the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, the Society of Professional Journalists Journalism Innovation Prize, a New Media Web Award, a Clarion Award for Investigative Journalism, and a Lifestyle Journalism Prize. She was recently recognized as the 2015 Distinguished Young Alumni of New York University.

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Tembi Locke


Actress Tembi Locke is best known for her work in television and film. In 2014, she co-starred in “Dumb and Dumber To”. She has also appeared on “NCIS,” “The Mentalist,” “Castle,” “Bones,” “Friends”, and the Syfy series “Eureka.” She will next be seen in the indie feature, “Collusion.”

Born to civil rights activist parents in Houston, Locke was named by legendary South African folksinger and anti-Apartheid activist Miriam Makeba. Her name, Tembekile, means “trustworthy.”

Fluent in Italian, she lived in Italy before graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in art history. It was there that she met and later married her Italian chef-husband, Saro. Seven years into her marriage and expanding acting career, Saro was diagnosed with a rare, soft-tissue cancer. For the next ten years, Locke was his primary cancer caregiver. That experience and Saro’s untimely passing led her to create and executive produce, “The Kitchen Widow,” an inspirational online platform and web series dedicated to awakening our ideas about the “art of comfort” in times of illness and loss. The series uses the language of food and the prism of her personal story to inspire self-care and community action.

When not acting, Locke is an advocate for organizations whose mission is to support the arts and caregiving awareness. She is one of the founding board members of the Oak Glen Family Center. Her work as has been featured in Hometown Pasadena and the UK’s the Guardian. She is currently at work on her memoir.

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Lolita Lopez

News Reporter

Lolita Lopez joined NBC4 Southern California as a general assignment reporter in 2011.

Fluent in Spanish, Lopez is widely recognized in Latino communities throughout Southern California. She has covered a range of significant national stories from the Christopher Dorner manhunt to the 2012 Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup win. Earlier in her career, she was stationed at Ground Zero while covering the World Trade Center tragedy.

A journalist for more than 15 years, Lopez feels privileged to tell inspiring peoples’ stories, as in the case of a piece she did on a sixth grade class that created a Facebook page to sell their homemade art to raise money for a classmate whose family couldn’t afford a proper funeral for his father. Just after Lopez’s story aired, the site raised more than $3,000.

Moreover, as a breast cancer survivor, she has chronicled her own courageous fight against the disease as a working mother and wife.

Lopez has been recognized with several awards, including two New York area Emmy Awards for ‘Best Sports Feature’ and ‘Best Live Sports Coverage.’ She also was praised by New York’s largest Spanish language daily newspaper, El Diario La Prensa, as one of the most outstanding women in the community.

Born in Puerto Rico, Lopez moved to Houston when her father became the women’s track coach at Rice University. A lifelong sports fan, Lopez graduated from Harvard University, where she was on the University’s volleyball and track teams. She resides in the Pasadena area with her family.

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Consuelo Martinez

Student Poet at John Muir High School, Pasadena

Consuelo Martinez, a senior at Pasadena’s John Muir High School, is a first generation Mexican-American and also a soon-to-be first-generation college student. Within the past year and a half, she found her voice in writing, poetry and public speaking and essentially found who she was: a poet, writer, artist and feminist.

She and the majority of students in her community come from low income families and minority backgrounds where many do not attend college. Her goal is to do so and major in English. She wants to become a writer and an English teacher as well as a role model for young Latinas who come from a background similar to hers.

She credits the adults in her life such as teachers (especially her English teachers), counselors and coaches who have kept her going and assured her that she has the potential to do great things.

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Kristin Maschka

President, Maschka Enterprises, Author, Activist

Kristin Maschka is an author, speaker and consultant fascinated by change – change that will lead to women’s equality and change that helps both organizations and the people in them to thrive.

She is the author of “This is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Today,” in which she weaves together her own story with a deep knowledge of history and society to offer parents a new perspective on their experiences and a set of tools for remodeling their own lives and the world around them. She is also a contributor to the Huffington Post and MomsRising.org and has written for Role Reboot, USA Today Magazine and Womens eNews.

Her consulting firm, Maschka Enterprises, provides executive coaching for women and executive teams. She has more than 20 years of experience in building cohesive executive teams and leading organizational change.

Kristin has been the National Board President of Mothers & More, a national non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of mothers, and was also the co-founder of the Pasadena Education Network. Currently, she serves on the board of Planned Parenthood Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley.

She holds two degrees from the University of Chicago in the History and Philosophy of Science, where she is also in the Athletics Hall of Fame for basketball. She and her husband live in Pasadena, California with their teenage daughter.

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Dr. Tess Warschaw

Psychologist, Author

Tessa Albert Warschaw, Ph.D., is a distinguished author, speaker, psychotherapist/coach, and internationally-recognized seminar leader, specializing in corporate negotiating strategies, entrepreneurial negotiating, and life coaching. She has a private coaching practice based in Southern California. She has served on the boards of Break the Cycle, NAFE Foundation’s Esteem Team Mentoring Program, Madison Avenue Boys and Girls Club (Advisory Board), and Women in Business. She is currently a standing member of the National Museum of Women’s History.

For the past 40 years, Dr. Warschaw has been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has a Ph.D. from USC. She has conducted national and international seminars on negotiating styles and the psychology of women, and money. In 1980, she created her seminar series “Quantum Leap – Taking the Next Giant Step in Your Personal and Professional Life,” a six- month commitment for individuals ready to take action for positive change.

Dr. Warschaw is the author of the best-selling books, “Winning by Negotiation” and “Rich Is Better.” She also co-authored “Winning with Kids” and “Resiliency: How to Bounce Back Faster, Stronger, Smarter.”

She is also the Founder of BTW UNLTD (Big Thinking Women) an organization created for women age 50 and older. Its goals include shifting the “aging” perspective; creating legacies for self and others as well as those to follow; becoming a unified force-politically, socially, economically for women 50+. Her latest venture, QWIK-FIX, is an instantaneous problem-solving program for those seeking an immediate response or set of options for a specific problem, issue, concern, or unexpected event.

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Loretta Whitesides

Human Space Exploration

Loretta Whitesides has a passion for using human space exploration to inspire humanity with what is possible. She has more than five hours of weightless time in a 727 aircraft as a Flight Director for Zero-G Corporation. And, she and her husband, George, are both signed up to take a sub-orbital spaceflight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Whitesides was trained as an astrobiologist at Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). She has been to the Canadian Arctic to study plant life in extreme environments and to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean with “Titanic” director James Cameron to film a 3D IMAX documentary, “Aliens of the Deep.”

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Alyesha Wise

Teaching Artist

Alyesha Wise is a Poet, Teaching Artist and Creator. She wrote her first poem at age 11 and has not stopped creating since.

After college, Alyesha moved to Philadelphia and became known as a leading voice of poetry, performing on stages and curating and hosting events. Her passion was fueled when she competed for the first time in an international poetry slam competition and made the finals stage.

Alyesha is now a 2-time Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist and Philadelphia Grand Slam Champion. Wise continues to perform and conduct poetry workshops across the United States and UK. She has conducted over 200 poetry workshops focused on writing, performance, etiquette and public speaking.

In 2012, Alyesha was awarded “The Queens Inspire Kings Award” by Kings Rule Together in Philadelphia for her voice and community development. Still creating in Philadelphia, Alyesha continues to teach workshops, perform and co-host The Philadelphia Poetry Slam.

Alyesha then moved to Los Angeles and became the 2014 Hollywood Grand Slam Champion. She is a Co-coach of the Get Lit Youth Slam Team that represented Los Angeles in the 2014 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam. The team made it to finals stage, and became the 3rd ranked youth slam team in the world. During that same year, Alyesha was selected to be part of a small group featured in the 2015 promotion of the Google Interstellar “Time Capsule” Project – a documentary by Google Play and Christopher Nolan, in conjunction with the hit movie, Interstellar.

We’re keeping the momentum going in 2017 with TEDxPasadenaWomen RISE!

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