“Live Fearlessly”

The 12th annual “Wahine Forum” took place on Thursday, October 24, and this year’s theme was “Live Fearlessly.” I had not attended any of the previous events so I was pleased to receive an invitation though I had no idea what to expect. Wow! There were so many women expected (1,200+) that they turned the men’s restroom at the Coral Ballroom into a women’s restroom. It was strange and humorous to see all the potted palms lined up to block the urinals, but it was in-and-out for women with no long lines. I knew that this was going to be an incredible gathering of women!

There was so much energy throughout the event. Every woman I spoke with was so grateful to have this opportunity to bond with other women, to learn and network from each other, and to be inspired by the speakers. Wendy Sachs was the keynote speaker, and she got the forum off to an energetic start. I loved her stories and her advice to the audience: Be confident; confidence matters more than competence in the business world. Stop apologizing; women tend to do that a lot. Don’t be afraid to fail because “Failure is success in progress.” (Albert Einstein) Know what you’re going after and create opportunities for yourself – make the magic happen. Have a growth mindset, a term that’s used a lot nowadays in education. Believe that you can get better. Lift each other up and connect on a personal and professional level. Brand yourself; image is important. Ignore the voices in your head that are preventing you from going all-in. Great advice for women!

I grew up in a different time; many of the women attending the forum were closer to my sons’ ages, in the time of their career when they are thinking of making a change or pivoting in a new direction. Their life experiences are very different from mine. I grew up when girls wore dresses to school every day, when the women’s liberation movement was just getting started, when moms were often housewives relegated to taking care of the home and children, and when jobs for females were primarily as clerks or secretaries, teachers, nurses, or other lower-paying positions. There was no Title IX so we didn’t have equal opportunities to play organized sports like our male friends did. We were taught to cook, sew, and to set a table correctly in Homemaking class while boys took classes in Agriculture, Metal Shop and Wood Shop. I often laugh when I hear the lyrics of the song “Wives and Lovers.” Yet, this was the world I grew up in. Fortunately, my parents encouraged all of us kids to work hard and to follow our dreams while learning skills that would help us later in life.

Today, women have many more opportunities in life, but there is much more to do. For example, they are still not paid equally (Data) and although women earn more undergraduate and graduate degrees, they hold substantially fewer leadership positions. (Data) This is why the Wahine Forum is such a successful event; these women want to move up the ladder but may be hitting roadblocks along the way. Learning from and with other strong women can provide the motivation as well as the support that is needed to be successful.

Back in 2016 after our female candidate for President was defeated, I wrote this blog: “Why is it Taking So Long?” After attending the 2019 Wahine Forum, I realize the importance of bringing women together so they can be inspired. As Dr. Jill Hoggard Green shared in her welcome address, “Think forward, build new skills, meet new people, and build the future of our community.” Women need to hear that message!

Thank you, Cheryl Oncea from Hawaii Business Magazine, for continuing to sponsor the Wahine Forum! I hope the next one is even more successful!

 With Josh Reppun, one of the few males in attendance. 
(He is Cheryl Oncea’s husband and invited me to the event. Thanks, Josh!)
 Cheryl Oncea, publisher of Hawaii Business Magazine, welcomes the attendees.