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Women In The Lead

The Girl Scouts aim to build ‘girls of courage, confidence and character,’ and the three Women of Distinction they’re honoring this year (from left) Carolyn A. Berry Wilson, Faye Kurren and Shelley Wilson – are fantastic role models for young ladies

The Girl Scouts aims to build ‘girls of courage, confidence and character,’ and the three Women of Distinction they’re honoring this year are fantastic role models for young ladies.


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(from left) Honorees Shelley Wilson, Carolyn A. Berry Wilson and Faye Kurren chat with Melissa Torres-Laing and Reyna Kaneko of Girls Scouts Hawaii

Earlier this year, two women executives moved through the ranks of two of the country’s biggest tech companies: Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg joined the company’s board of directors in June, and Marissa Mayer was named CEO of Yahoo! in July. Both of them instantly became the topics of countless news articles and blog posts, which discussed everything from their career trajectories to their wardrobes.

The sheer public fascination with Sandberg and Mayer seemed to highlight the lack of women in top-level management positions. In many spheres, women have made tremendous strides in the past few decades. A greaternumberof women, for example, hold bachelors degrees than men.

But the number of women in leadership roles still lags far behind men. Only 20 of all Fortune 500 companies are led by women CEOs – the highest it has ever been. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Global Gender Gap Report, only 17 percent of decision-making political positions are held by women.

In response to these grim trends in women’s leadership, Girl Scouts of the USA aims to change the scene for future generations.

Pursuing its mission of building “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place,” Girl Scouts of the USA is looking for ways to increase women in leadership. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the national council has declared 2012 Year of the Girl, and as a part of that, launched its multi-year initiative ToGetHerThere, which is designed to “help break down societal barriers that hinder girls from leading and achieving success.”

Locally, Girl Scouts of Hawaii (GSH) hosts its annual Woman of Distinction Dinner tonight (Nov. 7) at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. With the theme of ToGetHerThere, this year’s event honors three women – Faye Kurren, Carolyn A. Berry Wilson and Shelley Wilson (no relation) – all who were Scouts as girls and as adults have become leaders in business and the community.

Faye is a business executive who has served in senior positions at various companies, including heading Tesoro, and currently is the president and CEO of Hawaii Dental Service.

Carolyn is a noted philanthropist who supports numerous local organizations.

Shelley is an entrepreneur who founded one of Hawaii’s most successful small businesses, Wilson Care Group, where she serves as the president and CEO.

“Every year that I attend this event, I walk away truly inspired by the women that we honor,” says GSH board chairwoman and former Girl Scout Lori Lum, director of government relations and public affairs at Watanabe Ing law firm.

The event itself also is an exercise in leadership for local Girl Scouts. About 100 Scouts from Daisies on up will volunteer at the event by greeting guests and helping with the silent auction. In addition, the Scouts will have the opportunity to meet the honorees.

“It’s a time for them to really see their role models in action and see women in leadership roles who are right here in their local community,” says GSH communications director Melissa Torres-Laing. “It’s not just about seeing great women leaders on TV, but having some face-to-face time with them and being able to ask them some questions and being able to really see that they are in hand’s reach of (their) goals.

“(The ToGetHerThere campaign) is really meant to sort of level the playing field and bring more awareness to girl leadership,” explains Melissa.

“The (board’s) strategic direction is to help girls be whomever they want to be,” explains Lori. “We want to reach more girls, and we want to give them opportunities where they can be leaders.”

The event also generates proceeds for GSH to support its programs which, with the lofty goals of the current initiatives, are ever-growing.

“That is why having the dinner is so important, in terms of having the resources so we can execute programs to help girls in various areas,” Lori says. “Whether it be in science, technology or the environment, we want to give them those opportunities to follow their passions. If a girl wants to be President of the United States, we want to help her get there.”

One recent afternoon, Faye, Carolyn and Shelley managed to carve out a couple of hours in their busy schedules to meet at Carolyn’s home in Hawaii Kai. Sitting around the kitchen table, the women shared their stories of how they came to be the leaders they are today. Here’s a closer look at each of the 2012 Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction honorees.