Claire Hughes

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Dr. Claire Kuuleilani Hughes

-- By Lisa Ma

Our guest speaker for the July OWL meeting was Dr. Claire Kuuleilani Hughes.  Dr. Hughes has been an advocate for Native Hawaiian Health for over 30 years.  She became the state’s first Native Hawaiian registered dietician in 1959.  Dr. Hughes was appointed the chief of nutrition at the State of Hawaii Department of Health.  Her work to promote a more traditional Hawaiian diet and health programs for the Hawaiian community earned her the recognition as one of Hawaii’s Living Treasures by the Honpa Hongwangi Mission of Hawaii in 2011.  She shared her views on legacy and her fascinating research in what became the Molokai Diet.

Claire began her talk with a discussion of legacy.  She shared the stories of three women she felt provided a strong legacy in the Hawaiian culture:

  • Anna Rice Cooke – art enthusiast and collector and the founder of the Honolulu Academy of Arts
  • Queen Liliuokalani – gifted songwriter including Aloha ‘Oe and best known for her philanthropic gift of a trust for orphans and destitute children in Hawaii
  • Bernice Pauahi Bishop – lands used to fund and establish Kamehameha Schools

Dr. Hughes believes her legacy is built by hard work and doing a good job.  In addition, her driving principles are:

  • Act according to professional standards
  • Choose how to accomplish the job
  • Judge outcomes constantly
  • Do things outside employment
  • Take pride in accomplishments

It was long known that the Native Hawaiian population suffered from health issues that caused them to have a shorter life expectancy.  In the late 1980’s , Dr. Hughes worked with Doctors Emmett Aluli and Kekuni Blaisdell to study the high incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes in Native Hawaiian people. The common factor was diet and with her background, Dr. Hughes was specifically requested to come to Molokai to assist with the study.  The participants were taken off the high fat diets they were consuming and ate only traditional Hawaiian foods.  The goal was not to lose weight.  They wanted the improvement in health to come from diet, not weight loss.  In 4 weeks’ time they saw a 20 point drop in cholesterol.  Dr. Hughes shared with us a comparison chart on the Molokai Diet versus an American diet.  78% of the calories on the Molokai Diet come from carbohydrates including taro, rice, potatoes, vegetables, fruits and seaweed. 

Besides her important work on this study, Dr. Hughes also helped to secure federal funding for culturally-based health and nutrition programs for Native Hawaiians.  Dr. Hughes was part of a panel that testified before the U.S. Senate resulting in Congress passing the Native Hawaiian Health Care Act of 1988.  

Susan Yamada, Director of University of Hawaii Ventures

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Entrepreneurial Thinking in the 21st Century Workplace

Did you know your current occupation could be obsolete in the next 5 to 10 years?  As global economies evolve, and the accessibility of information increases through technology, it is critical that we gage our skill level to that needed in the 21st century workplace.  Here are the four core C’s: 

1.     Creativity: Be innovative, curious and imaginative.  Think outside the box to find new solutions to old and most importantly, future problems.  Utilize new tools and models to be agile and adaptable to the organization.

2.     Critical Thinking: Learn to ask good questions - “Why?”  Practice creative destruction, as nothing can remain the same.  Evaluate whether your current practices need to change.  Avoid the ‘analysis paralysis’.  Too much information can often cloud what is important to take action.

3.     Collaboration: Build cross cultural project-based teams.  Understand that top down management is no longer effective.  It is important to be open to opinions and skills of the front-line team and allow individuals to speak up.  However, you will need to build alliances by working alongside these individuals first before taking in their recommendations.  Build trust.

4.     Communication: This is both written and verbal.  Garner the ability to express your view clearly by having a voice of non-confrontational tone and most importantly learning to listen.  

To create, continue the four skills above and keep in mind the following: 

  • Gray is the new black.  Learn to make decisions without perfect information.  Decision-making is no longer based on black and white information.  
  • Be an innovator and take initiative.  Volunteer for new projects.  Look for solutions, not just problems.  If you are not failing, you are not taking the initiative. We learn through our mistakes.  To be innovative, continuous learning is vital – new business ventures, models, markets, trends and technology.  
  • Risk taking is the new sexy.  Practice by taking risks every day.  To start, take small steps.  Offer your opinions to gain confidence.  Empower yourself by learning new skills and pushing your comfort zone.  Those that don’t fail are not setting high enough goals. Get used to feeling uncomfortable.  
  • Establish a new legacy.  Start by refocusing on the 4-C’s.  Big companies need to act like startups to stay viable.  Keep pace with the change by continuously learning new skills and being comfortable with discomfort.  

Occupations are evolving every minute.  There are new positions that did not exist 10 years ago. Hawaii’s economy is diversifying, creating these new positions to support innovation and remain viable for the future.  That is why it is critical that we continue to re-evaluation knowledge, skills and ability to ride through hard times by providing team support and collaboration. Additionally, embrace the four C’s – Creativity, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Communication.



Anna Elento-Sneed


Sexual Harassment and the #MeToo Movement were the topics of our March Speaker, Anna Elento-Sneed, President and Founding Director of ES&A Law Firm.  Anna eloquently educated the audience on a brief history of sexual harassment issues and shared how women's equality issues paralleled her own career from attending an all-male college to her work as an attorney in the labor and employment field. 

Anna shared that in the early 80’s, law schools were 30 percent women and gender discrimination, not sexual harassment, was a huge topic.  But, the focus was on the law rather than women's stories and experiences.  By 1986, however, the concept of sexual harassment had evolved and was required to be considered in the workplace.  With high-profile cases, such as Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment against then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Navy's Tailhook scandal, and landmark Supreme Court cases on sexual harassment that allowed companies to be sued over sexual harassment, awareness of the concept of sexual harassment was on the rise.

Initially, sexual harassment was generally considered to be male to female and female to male, but in the later 1980s the concept evolved and began to include male to male and female to female.  By 1998, sexual harassment litigation had increased to a point where it threatened to paralyze the court system. That same year, the Supreme Court held in the case of Faragher v. City of Boca Raton that employers may be liable for supervisory employee acts that result in a hostile work environment.  Therefore, employers must establish policies on behavior acceptable in the workplace.

Fast forward to 2018 and the #MeeToo movement.  We still have issues.  Women now feel that if they cannot report upward, then report outward. Women are now coming forward years after events have taken place to report cases of sexual harassment, although we don't each individual's reason for waiting - whether it's fear of reprisal or a personal agenda, clearly sexual harassment is still an issue in society.

Anna's final thought.  To combat sexual harassment in the workplace and prevent a company from being held liable for the acts of its supervisors and employees, the company must establish guidelines and it must educate its employees.  Webinar training is not effective, the spoken word is better.

Allison Izu Song, Owner / Designer Allison Izu

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Allison Izu Song is the owner and designer of Allison Izu.  With a father who is a serial entrepreneur and a creative mother, Allison is well-suited for the tough fashion world.  Celebrating 10 years in business, she has hit her share of speed bumps but says in hindsight they were of benefit to her career because she always learned something. 

Attending Sacred Hearts Academy and wearing a school uniform helped Allison realize how clothes are used to express personality. She also credits the all girls’ school with instilling in her the belief that she could do anything.  While at UH Manoa, she fell into the fashion world when she needed an extra elective and chose sewing. Once she realized that this was an actual major for many of her classmates she was all in.  Shortly after graduation Allison moved to New York where she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Back in Hawaii after graduation, Allison worked on various projects including sewing wedding dresses. She eventually took the lead to create a line of jeans.  Taking a risk, she borrowed all the money she could for materials and production in China. When the shipment arrived, however, it was all wrong – the fabric, the fit, everything was all wrong.  This was a devastating blow but again, a huge life lesson.

With courage, Allison picked herself up and headed to try her luck in the Los Angeles fashion scene. She found that the tough and cut-throat LA industry rubbed off on her.  Allison saw herself being a person she didn’t like and needed to find a way to come home to Hawaii and our authentic Aloha way of life.

Once back in Hawaii, Allison took another stab at a denim line and set her sights on getting her jeans in Nordstrom’s.  She begged the buyer every day until he relented. Her jeans where a big success.  The only problem was they were so good.  They were such high quality, women only bought one pair. She needed to branch out to create tops and accessories.

It was during this time that Allison founded the Cut Collective, an organization to help others start fashion related businesses, but eventually realized she was putting other people’s dreams in front of her own.  Over the last couple years Allison has been taking time to get to know herself again by getting back to the creative and solving problems side of the industry.  She is her first customer.  She wears every piece for at least a day to judge how it fits, how it moves.  She has to love the piece or it doesn’t get made for the public.

Allison seems to really love fashion and has found joy in creating and sharing her work. Her advice to us “be authentic”.  Listen and trust your inner voice.  Don’t quiet yourself because of fear.

Allison Izu is located at 1114 11th Avenue in Kaimuki.  Clothing is 100 percent made in Hawaii and they recently opened a family line, Olivia and Owen, named after her children.


Connie Mitchell, Executive Director IHS

Connie Mitchell, Executive Director at the Institute for Human Services (IHS) and Julie Arigo, OWL Past President.

Connie Mitchell, Executive Director at the Institute for Human Services (IHS) and Julie Arigo, OWL Past President.

Our November Speaker was Connie Mitchell, Executive Director at the Institute for Human Services (IHS). IHS is the oldest, largest and most comprehensive human services agency focused exclusively on ending and preventing homelessness in Hawaii.  Born and raised in Hawaii, Connie earned a BS and MSN in Nursing from UH.  Her diverse career included financial planning, pastoral work, teaching mental health nursing at UH and healthcare management.  In discussing her background, Connie shared that in 4th grade she was told she was “bossy” and should quiet down.  Fortunately, she did not and has used this as a strength to advocate for the homeless. 

Connie says she believes it is possible to end homelessness.  It is a very complex problem, but can be solved if we are all in this together and willing to help. The reasons for homelessness are varied: eviction, job loss, health issues, addiction, domestic violence, incarceration, etc.  The quicker the homeless can find housing, the quicker they recover.  There is not one solution that will fit all.  She described some of the programs that are working such as Housing ASAP through the Hawaii Community Foundation and Kahauiki Village a public/private partnership headed by Duane Kurisu.
Connie shared some terms with us:

 --  Chronic Homelessness - is defined by more than 1 year straight of homelessness or more  than 4 times homeless in a 3-year period
 --  Functional Zero - which means ending homelessness quickly for individuals and families, but  does not necessarily mean no homelessness.The good news is Family Homelessness is   on the decline.  The goal is to end family homelessness by December 2018.
 --  Goldilocks Philosophy – defined as providing the right amount of support to cultivate and  ensure sustained self-sufficiency so that families and individuals can avoid homelessness again.

Connie sees the solution as a coordinated systems approach including: coordinated entry, planning, collecting and examining local data and performance measurement and evaluation.  Today she sees lots of redundancy and feels there needs to be one database that is used by all services agencies to better share information.
One of the final slides Connie shared included a picture of Wonder Woman which is fitting for her.  On the slide were the leadership lessons she has learned as a woman fighting homelessness:

        --  Take BOLD action

        --  Advocate for those who can’t

        --  Call people to common values

        --  Fear less about what other people think

        --  Let love guide you