2017 Wahine Forum: Work Together, Rise Together

Oct 26, 2017

Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The 10th Annual Wahine Forum welcomed nearly 850 attendees at the Hilton Hawaiian Village today. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka was there and filed this report. 

The theme for the 2017 Wahine Forum was:  Work Together, Rise Together.  It encourages today’s women leaders to become mentors and sponsors for the next generation.  Maile Meyer, founder of Na Mea Hawai’I, which promotes and sells Hawai’i products,  explains the difference.

(L-R) Malia Ka'aihue, Maile Meyer, Jana Lum, Bliss Lau
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“A mentor is someone that you might have a very long relationship with and sees and asks to get corrections from them.  A sponsor literally opens the door and you might not see them ‘til the next time the open the door.  But they believe in you; what you’re trying to do and they’re there at critical junctures in your career.  Power and access:  sponsorship.  Continuity, over time:  mentor.”

Meyer participated in a panel discussion on the journey of women business owners and entrepreneurs from their beginnings to where they are now.   One recurring theme was that a woman must become the CEO of her own career and life.  Bliss Lau…was born and raised in Hawai’i and moved to New York City after graduating from high school to start her own business.

“There was a point when I was making handbags that I didn’t want to go to work every day.  I didn’t like doing it.  And, then, I was procrastinating and I made myself some jewelry.  And, eventually, jewelry became where I was going with my pathway and I’ve transformed so I’ve had a handbag line for six years, and then, costume jewelry and body chains for a long time and now I do fine jewelry.”

Jana Lam floated around from job to job from New York to San Francisco.  She moved back to O’ahu 7 years ago and found her passion in designing and printing her own fabric.

“If it’s something you’re passionate about and you love, then you’re gonna make it work.  I mean that was the big deal for me, was that, I didn’t wanna go to work and spend all your time at work and just be unhappy.  Clock in; clock out.  It’s a different set of problems as an entrepreneur now for sure because you never clock in; you never clock out.  You’re sick you drive yourself into the ground.”

And that’s when you take charge of your life, says Maile Meyer, to  reorganize your universe and seek a balance.

Brigadier General Suzanne Vares-Lum
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“I meditate in the morning.  I do cheat.  I want to meditate longer but I don’t.  But I try.  I try to walk.  I try to look at the beauty and I try to say, ‘Thank you.’ We are too fortunate, living where we live, to not be able sleep, to get in the ocean, to go to the mountains, to do things that replenish us.  So we can get up and feel good about how we face our days.”

The Wahine Forum attendees also cheered for Honolulu Police Department Major,Susan Ballard, the first woman nominated to become Chief of Police this week.   Suzanne Vares Lum is also among the firsts: to command a military intelligence company in the Hawai’i National Guard.   She started 31 years ago as a private first class and rose through the ranks to Brigadier General.

“When you start from the bottom, you’re just seeing tasks.  You don’t realize yet that there’s a broader picture to why you are doing what you are doing.  But the harder you work, the more open you are to wisdom and advice, and the more humble you are in terms of receiving corrections and directions and mentorship so that you can see the broader vision.”

For HPR New, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.