Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Friday, October 22, 1999

Rooting for more
women leaders

EXCEPT for professional busybody Martha Stewart, whose company bloomed in its first week trading on the New York Stock Exchange, this week wasn't an empowering one for high-profile women.

The popularity of Hillary Clinton, senatorial wanna-be trying to shed her role as first lady, is falling fast among female voters in New York.

A cash-poor but charm-rich Elizabeth Dole reluctantly bowed out as one of the Republican pre$idential contender$.

What's more, the Indonesian assembly shunned popular politico Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of former President Sukarno, in favor of a blind and infirm male opponent. She was given the unthreatening role of vice president, but only after rioting by her supporters.

Sisters of the world, take note. To misquote Martha Stewart, it's not a good thing!

That wasn't the case last week, however, when hundreds of members of the International Women's Forum converged on Washington, D.C., for its 1999 conference, "Women Leading Global Change."

Diverse and pre-eminent wahine in business and government from 17 nations and 41 states, including Hawaii, gathered to share knowledge and ideas, build some "good ol' girl" support and learn how the so-called "weaker sex" is powering to the top of companies, communities and countries.

"So, what does your husband do?" is NEVER asked in this crowd.

The ladies in this by-invitation-only organization have not only made it in their fields but want to nurture the female bigwigs of tomorrow through mentoring, networking and intensive training.

Plus, they want to hobnob with their peers. The IWF event, headquartered at the Capital Hilton, featured:

Bullet A visit to the vice president's residence, hosted by Tipper Gore. Her eyes sparkle when she meets anyone from Hawaii. It's still one of the Second Couple's favorite get-away spots, she confesses.

Bullet An opening reception at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress tinker and toil. The courtyard soiree was hosted by Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.

Bullet A spirited roundtable discussion on equal pay for equal work, moderated by ABC anchorwoman Carole Simpson. Panelists included Sanya Tyler, the acclaimed 19-year head women's basketball coach of Howard University. Tyler successfully sued for paycheck parity after serving on the selection committee to pick her unproven male counterpart at the college. His salary was to be four times higher than hers.

Bullet A dinner gala hosted by CNN senior correspondent Judy Woodruff. Inducted into the IWF Hall of Fame that night were Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz (who accepted her award from Ms. magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem), and activist Ellen Li, credited with ending polygamous marriages and concubinage laws in Hong Kong.

OK, maybe Hillary won't beat Rudy next year. Maybe a gal won't become president in 2000, either. And Megawati Sukarnoputri had better get used to being the Al Gore of Indonesia.

But that doesn't mean women aren't making a difference in their chosen endeavors or don't care if other women join them. Look at the goal-driven, female-empowering, achievement-laden gals of the IWF!

It's no fun reaching the summit if you're the only one there.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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