“I was told a woman’s place is in the kitchen and the bedroom–not the boardroom,” said Gladys Coelho Basia, a third generation Maui woman who states forthright that she was born in 1940. Women in business have obviously come a long way. But experts predict it may take nearly 100 years for women to achieve economic equality with men worldwide; we can only hope that it’s sooner in the U.S.
Basia was one of “8 Wonder Women” sitting on a panel on Sept. 22 at the King Kamehameha Golf Club. The panel was part of “A Woman’s Place Is,” a three-hour confab presented by Maui Business Brainstormers to honor American Business Women’s Day. The diverse panel featured Judith Palmer Capertina, founder/owner of Haole Girl Island Sweets; Debbie Finkiewicz, president of The Maui Closet Company; Melanie Marrero, chief operating officer of Maui Brewing Co.; Leslie Malulani Shizue Miki, owner of Abundant Life Natural Foods; Susie Thieman, executive director of Lokahi Pacific; Diane Haynes Woodburn, publisher of Maui No Ka Oi Magazine; Mylen Fe Yamamoto, a YouTube talent agent and the force behind Cropsticks, a new eco-friendly line of bamboo chopsticks; and Baisa who retired at 65 only to realize “it was a waste” and now holds the Maui County Council’s Pukalani-Kula-Ulupalakua area residency seat; the Paia native is also the chair of the Water Resources Committee. And we did the math; she is 77.
The predominantly female crowd was welcomed by entrepreneur Gylian Solay and emcee David Kapaku. Moderator Jay April, president and CEO of Akaku Maui Community Media, facilitated the conversation. April’s questions focused on the challenges of being a woman in the workplace, but he flavored the talk by going beyond the boardroom.
The group was asked to fill in the blank, “A Women’s Place Is.” Responses ranged from empowering (wherever she can make a difference), to the political (in the White House), to the confident (wherever she wants to be).
Maui No Ka Oi’s Woodburn said the biggest challenge of starting her company was not being taken seriously. In meetings, men would ask Woodburn if her husband was arriving shortly. Single at the time, Thieman was told early on that she was only working until she found the right man.
Perseverance is a must to overcome those attitudes. “I never heard a ‘no’ I didn’t like,” said Thieman, who in 1979 was the owner and publisher of Downtown Planet newspaper. “‘No’ is just an invitation to do a better job,” Woodburn added.
Yamamoto, who recently appeared on Shark Tank, said it is important to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. “Get a mentor that you trust,” she said. Yamamoto also believes that being a good person is essential for success. The panelists agreed that the Golden Rule is a vital principle. “Be a good person,” Woodburn said simply. “And err on the side of generosity.”
These successful women believe it is important to follow your passion. “You have to love what you do,” Capertina said. If you love what you do, your enthusiasm for your business will be contagious. Marrero said she gets joy from living her life for today, not tomorrow. “This moment is your life,” she said.
Marrero draws inspiration from a wide variety of people including Michelle Obama, Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, Hayden Panettiere, Katy Perry and the contestants on The Voice. When it comes to influences, however, most mentioned their mothers.
The group generally agreed that stress relief comes from taking care of yourself, moving your body, eating healthy and sleeping well. “Exercise is huge,” said Capertina. Then Finkiewicz got a chuckle when she said everyone in her office knows if she is stressed out because she starts cleaning ferociously.
April closed the talks with the question: “What is on your nightstand?” The apparently overworked crowd laughed when Miki stated “Who has time?!”
The books mentioned were as diversified as the individuals on the stage. (One editorial observation: the authors are all women.) Woodburn is reading Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, written by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg with Professor Adam Grant. Yamamoto is reading The 5 Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage by Mel Robbins. Capertina and Marrero meanwhile enjoy fictionalized tales. Marrero most recently read A Piece of the World by the bestselling author Christina Baker Kline. Capertina prefers serial-killer novels.
American Business Women’s Day is a day to honor and reflect on the contributions and accomplishments of women in the workforce and women business owners. It’s a day to bring together women of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking and national recognition.
Maui Business Brainstormers successfully honored ABW Day. The discussion was informative, entertaining, inspiring and empowering. Afterwards, attendees networked with each other and the panelists. Business cards were exchanged, Facebook friend requests were sent, and hugs of gratitude were shared. People left feeling motivated to work together toward equality.
Photo courtesy Maui Business Brainstormers