Leading The Way
On May 15, YWCA O‘ahu will recognize this year’s LeaderLuncheon honorees (above, from left) Kathryn Matayoshi, Beth Whitehead, Kathryn Inkinen and Patricia Tam — role models of the organization’s mission of “eliminating racism and empowering women.”
As the story goes, YWCA O‘ahu board members were at a business meeting when someone broached the idea of starting up an event to honor women — which is when the men they were with began laughing, wondering aloud if there were even any women worth recognizing.
“That really added fire to our board and leadership,” says Noriko Namiki, YWCA O‘ahu CEO. “They really wanted to demonstrate actually there are professional women … who are community leaders, who are worthy of recognition and honor.”
And so they did, creating the LeaderLuncheon.
Now in its 42nd year, the event pays tribute to women who not only serve as leaders, but also exemplars of the organization’s mission: “eliminating racism and empowering women.”
This year’s honorees, nominated and then vetted through a rigorous screening process — Kathryn Inkinen, Inkinen & Associates founder and adviser; Kathryn Matayoshi, HMSA senior vice president, government programs and account relationships; Patricia Tam, Halekulani Corp. chief executive adviser; and Beth Whitehead, American Savings Bank executive vice president and chief administrative officer — will be honored May 15 at Sheraton Waikīkī, where Namiki says they will serve as living embodiments of all that is possible for women.
“You see a visual image of who you can be, and I think that’s really powerful,” she adds.
To say that community is at the root of everything Kathryn Inkinen sets out to do would be an understatement.
In 1992, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Travel Industry Management alumna established Inkinen & Associates, an executive search firm. Helping Hawai‘i businesses connect with qualified candidates, Inkinen has put particular emphasis on retaining Hawai‘i talent and bringing home others who felt their only options were on the mainland — a philosophy rooted in her belief that Hawai‘i natives have firsthand knowledge of just how special the dynamic in the islands can be.
“They understand our community will give back and will mentor others,” she says.
The company also strives to work with nonprofits to find talented executive directors to take the helm of Hawai‘i organizations.
“I really feel strongly that the nonprofit sector in our community helps us,” says Inkinen, who will retire this summer after having found her successor, though she remains an adviser to the company.
The Farrington grad gives of her own time, too, serving with the likes of Hawai‘i Chapter of Women Corporate Directors, American Red Cross of Hawai‘i, American Lung Association, TIM International and YWCA.
The latter has had an especially personal impact on her life. Inkinen remembers utilizing YWCA’s childcare services and swim classes for daughter Kristi (who founded Remedy Intelligent Staffing and with whom Inkinen merged businesses five years ago to become full-service). In recent times, the mother-daughter duo even pitched in as chairwomen of the organization’s 2015 LeaderLuncheon.
“I think it’s great to do your work … but that’s not enough — you have to give back,” she says.
It’s been a couple of years since Kathryn Matayoshi retired from her role as superintendent of the state Department of Education, but that doesn’t mean she has stopped thinking about Hawai‘i’s keiki. In fact, she currently is in the midst of establishing work-based learning opportunities for youth.
“Things like getting kids into work places so they can see what it takes, explore careers, kind of research, and learn more about what kind of future job opportunities and careers they might find really interesting and rewarding,” she explains.
That isn’t all that takes up Matayoshi’s time these days, though. In 2017, she joined HMSA as senior vice president, government programs and account relationships. Having been a board member for a number of years, Matayoshi is a strong proponent of the company’s approach to health care: focusing on an individual’s overall health and keeping people healthier longer.
As part of the gig, Matayoshi works with government programs and HMSA’s account management group to better serve members.
The lawyer by training finds the time to give back to the community in other ways as well. Most recently, she joined the board of Hawai‘i Public Radio, continues to volunteer with Hawai‘i State Bar Association from time to time and has ties to YWCA, having served on its board and as chairwoman at one point.
“Our family has always been very community-oriented,” she says. “It’s just in the blood, if you will. It’s very satisfying to know that your energy and your effort is making things better for other people.”
It seemed that there wasn’t much a young Patricia Tam didn’t know — the A-plus, honor roll academic skipped fourth grade.
But one summer, Tam’s parents presented her with the option of taking a class at YWCA. As luck would have it, the only open course was in cake decorating. So off she went to the first lesson, where Tam was confounded when tasked with bringing in an angel food cake.
“I didn’t even know what angel food cake was,” she recalls.
It was then that she learned a valuable lesson: there’s a fear that comes with the unknown, and there’s always something you don’t know — a memory that continues to influence her work at Halekulani Corp., where the chief executive adviser will celebrate 36 years come July.
“Whenever I think about people coming to a new job, or they’re starting, I always remember that,” says Tam.
It’s rather kismet, then, that Tam — who, fun fact, later opened a bakery in the ’70s — is a LeaderLuncheon honoree this year.
While Tam is involved in organizations like Waikīkī Improvement Association and Waikīkī Business Improvement District Association, perhaps more profound is her professional past. When Tam was named general manager of Halekulani’s Waikīkī Parc Hotel in 1987 (which will reopen as Halepuna Waikīkī by Halekulani this fall), she was the first woman in the state to hold the title — though Tam insists it stood for much more.
“I was a local girl in this industry that actually supported a lot of people from the outside to come to Hawai‘i and be in senior executive positions,” she says. “More than just being a female in that era, which was very challenging, I think it’s really important to understand that we hopefully opened the door more for local students.”
As American Savings Bank executive vice president and chief administrative officer Beth Whitehead sees it, there are quite a number of parallels between her company and the mission of YWCA.
To start, 74 percent of teammates are women. Four are part of the management team, while many others fill various leadership roles.
“We have a group called the ASB Women’s Network, which is really about women supporting women and bringing together conversations on what’s unique about being a woman in the work-place and a woman leader, and how can we build each other and empower each other and help each other,” she adds.
Whitehead, who got her start with the company in 2008, has been celebrating the opening of its new campus of late, where 650 teammates from five different locations will now call home. The 11-story building five years in the making is a place American Savings Bank hopes will foster community — just don’t refer to it as a headquarters.
“We really wanted to focus on it as a place of learning and growing together,” she says. “Headquarters sounded stuffy, and we’re a very unstuffy company.”
In her spare time, Whitehead serves on the boards for Hawai‘i Theatre Center and Child & Family Service, and also is a facilitator with YWCA’s Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership, lending her expertise as a mentor.
“It’s just your kuleana to make where you live a better place,” she says. “Every hour you spend giving something to your community, you reap it back tenfold in the relationships you build and in the sense of pride you have in having made a difference in someone’s life.”
YWCA O‘ahu’s Leader-Luncheon will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, at Sheraton Waikīkī. For tickets and more information, visit ywcaoahu.org/leaderluncheon.
WHAT DOES BEING A LEADER MEAN TO YOU?
“As a role model, create and maintain high standards and level of excellence. Lead by example, but also empower others as individuals.”
— KATHRYN INKINEN
“I think a leader means helping others to be the best they can be, finding ways to solve problems, collaborating with others.”
— KATHRYN MATAYOSHI
“Leader assumes you have a team to work with, and … I think that’s the success — it’s always in the team.”
— PATRICIA TAM
“Having a title is not what makes you a leader. Having trust and building relationships, and really working together is what makes you a leader.”
— BETH WHITEHEAD
BUILDING UP WOMEN LEADERS
With an eye on empowering women, YWCA O‘ahu’s Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership offers several programs that do just that.
Among its offerings is a Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance, geared toward women in the midst of their careers; Girls’ Summit, a one-day business conference that promotes leadership among high school girls; and its newest addition, Girls’ Summit Youth for middle school students.
“Leadership development has to start at a younger age before they really start hesitating,” says Noriko Namiki, YWCA O‘ahu CEO. “We really want to celebrate their voice and let them know that they are worthy of anything they want to pursue.
“We really try to help women and girls at different stages of their lives,” she adds.
Of course, that’s hardly all YWCA has to offer. For more, visit ywcaoahu.org.