Follow The Leaders

Ginny Tiu, Julie Arigo, Catherine Ngo and Loretta Luke Yajima

Since 1977, YWCA O‘ahu has honored women who best uphold its ideals at the organization’s annual LeaderLuncheon. This year’s honorees are Julie Arigo, Catherine Ngo, Ginny Tiu and Loretta Luke Yajima.

YWCA O‘ahu celebrates its 41st annual LeaderLuncheon next week. What’s different about this year’s occasion? Well, it could be the tenor of the times.

Never before has the radar on women’s rights, fair treatment and gender bias been more amplified. From #MeToo movements to high-profile admissions of misconduct toward women — locally and nationally — it seems the veil on public humiliation is being lifted.

So when a time-honored institution like the YWCA rebrands itself and says it’s “on a mission” to empower women and eliminate racism, one must take note.

Staffers pose for a photo on the courtyard stairs of Laniākea in 1937. PHOTO COURTESY YWCA

As YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron puts it: “For over 150 years, YWCA has been at the fore-front of the most critical social movements, from voting rights and civil rights to affordable housing and pay equity, to violence prevention and health care reform.

“However, despite the life-changing services, supports and advocacy provided in local communities across the country, many people are not aware of our size, impact and tremendous relevance in the lives of the millions of women, girls and families we serve,” she asserts.

If your perception of the YWCA is as a fitness and social club, it’s time to reboot your radar. It is not solely a recreational resort, but a program-driven innovator and advocate that helps women and children be the best they can be.

Showing solidarity during the Women’s March in Honolulu. PHOTO COURTESY YWCA

YWCA O‘ahu CEO Noriko Namiki claims, “Women in America are strong, but we still have a long way to go. As we approach 2020 to celebrate our 120th anniversary, it’s a critical reminder that our organization needs to remain relevant.”

To amplify that relevance and showcase achievements of outstanding citizens in the community, the YWCA O‘ahu has honored female leaders since 1977 that demonstrate a commitment to or exemplify the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women.

They are recognized at its signature LeaderLuncheon. This year, the event is scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. May 16 at the Sheraton Waikīk&#x012b (

Four accomplished women will join the class of more than 160 past honorees to receive the applause of a grateful community.

Meet the 2018 honorees, who share their insights on what it takes to become highly effective leaders:

General manager, Waikīkī Parc Hotel

REACTION: “I still find this to be an incredulous honor to be recognized by a reputable organization such as YWCA for doing what I consider fun work … serving the community.”

ON LEADERSHIP: “Leadership is the art of being able to orchestrate a team to achieve common goals. It is not self-serving, and always having others’ best interests in mind. It is managing with respect.”

ON GENDER EQUITY: “There are more women climbing the ranks of upper management and acquiring executive positions throughout our local industry. Women do tend to be more critical of themselves, and this sometimes gets in the way. With the growing number of women’s organizations geared toward providing professional development skills, mentorship and networking opportunities, I see a continued bright future for women with aspirations for careers in our tourism industry.”

President and chief executive officer, Central Pacific Bank

REACTION: “I feel privileged to be among the many great women leaders in Hawai‘i who have received this recognition.”

ON LEADERSHIP: “I believe leadership is largely defined by one’s ability to inspire others. A leader must have a clear vision, communicate through actions over words, empower others with accountability, be fair and trustworthy, and above all, lead others by example.”

ON COMMUNITY PRIDE: “Our community is special, and among the many attributes that make Hawai‘i such a special place are its people. The aloha spirit is alive and well … and the mutual understanding of and respect for our cultural diversity contribute to the way we are.”

ON CHALLENGES: “Paradise nevertheless has its challenges, such as affordable housing for the younger generation and the less fortunate, as well as services and accommoda-

tions for our growing population of kūpuna. Economic diversity and increased revenues to our state will be needed to support our growth needs, along with creative approaches with the collaboration and cooperation of government, business and community leaders.”


REACTION: “I am a bit surprised because although I am used to being recognized for my music, I feel I am just doing what I believe in and am not sure if I should be honored for that. I am a firm believer that we are here to help each other.”

ON LEADERSHIP: “A leader is someone who leads by example, who earns the respect of others. The mind is only as good as the heart that drives it.”

OUR COMMUNITY: “The great asset our community has is our aloha sprit and our sense of ‘ohana (family). I am a huge animal lover and find it heartbreaking and disturbing when the aloha spirit is not extended to helpless and innocent creatures.”

ON CHALLENGES: “I am an optimist, but also a realist. There are many people who care and want to do good. We just have to be more committed … and focus on helping others. If we try to help others have some of what we have been blessed with, not just materially but in the form of self-respect, self-worth, and confidence, we will all be able to sleep better and smile more.”

Chairwoman and chief executive officer, Hawai‘i Children’s Discovery Center

REACTION: “The announcement came as a complete surprise. We were in the middle of what I thought was a business meeting of our board of directors. When the delegation from the YWCA came in with beautiful lei and congratulatory greetings, I was speechless!”

Involvement: “For years I have been making donations to the YWCA’s Dress for Success program. Hearing from and meeting the women who have benefitted from this program has been so inspiring.”

ON LEADERSHIP: “I was once a presenter at a conference for the Network of Volunteer Leaders. My topic was ‘To Lead is to Serve.’ To inspire others, one must truly believe in the cause, to recognize the talents of others, and to encourage them to use their talents to accomplish their personal goals as well as the goals of the organization. In other words, helping others to be the best that they can be.”

ON GENDER EQUITY: “The world is changing rapidly … right before our eyes. The world that our children will inherit will be vastly different from the one that our parents and grandparents inherited. That is precisely why it is imperative that we teach our children to think, to make sound judgments, to problem-solve, to be self-confident and brave, and to communicate effectively. We must allow them to find their way by giving them opportunities to test their boundaries, experience success as well as failures, and most of all, to be exposed to situations where they can learn to work and play together with others.”

OUR COMMUNITY: “We are a melting pot. Our people are resourceful, resilient, and respectful of one another. To me, the greatest challenge is for us to understand and appreciate the need to pass these values on to the next generation when there is so much happening in the world today to distract our attention away from caring for one another. As wonderful as technology may be, we must not forget that our strength is in human interaction and engagement, which is how our children will learn empathy and compassion. The future truly lies in the hands of our children.”


• Founded in 1900, YWCA O‘ahu is the oldest and largest women’s membership organization in Hawai‘i supporting women and girls through leadership development, health and wellness, and economic advancement.

• YWCA O‘ahu has more than 2,000 members and three unique facilities, including Laniākea YWCA in downtown Honolulu, Fernhurst in Makiki, and Kokokahi in Kāne‘ohe.

• The Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership (MCBL) was established in 2012 to help aspiring women and men develop and pursue professional goals. It is funded in part by the Small Business Administration.

• In 2016, YWCA O‘ahu reached 1,047 health and wellness members — 43 percent on senior plans, 40 percent on adult plans and 15 percent on student plans.

• YWCA raises awareness about the devastating effects of domestic violence through the Week Without Violence Campaign every October.

• YWCAs across the globe serve more than 25 million women and girls in 125 countries worldwide.