Gov. Linda Lingle's third annual International Women's Leadership Conference, "Women With No Limits," is being held today in Waikiki. The conference, which is all about inspiring and motivating Hawaii's women, hosts an impressive list of speakers from around the world, who have pushed the limits of success in their chosen fields, while making a difference globally, Lingle said.
: A carpenter in pink who has worked as a wedding coordinator and stocked shelves for Costco, Hemmis helps rebuild homes and dreams on television's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." She has started Tuff Chix, a line of work wear and accessories for female builders.
Women who lead
TV star Paige Hemmis advocates never taking "no" for an answer
Though she's a role model to many, Paige Hemmis, the vivacious, pink-clad carpenter of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" fame, has joined the lineup of women leaders who are speaking at Gov. Linda Lingle's Third Annual Women's Leadership Conference today because she wants to hear what they want to say.
"I'm so honored to have been asked to speak among these women," said the 34-year-old Hemmis, a self-proclaimed Jill-of-All-Trades who parlayed a passion for carpentry into a starring role on one of TV's hottest shows.
"But, really, I wanted to attend the conference so that I can meet amazing women and hear their stories," Hemmis said.
Hemmis, who is a self-taught carpenter and homebuilder, will join a line-up of women leaders from Japan, Iraq, the Philippines, and Hawaii when she speaks after lunch about breaking boundaries at the conference.
It's clear from Hemmis' career path that she has always set high expectations and pushed personal limits. From studying religion and philosophy at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Hemmis launched into careers as an emergency medical technician, a landlord and a wedding coordinator before realizing her dream gig. Along the way, she also worked as a substitute teacher and a shelf stocker at Costco.
"The secret of success is to refuse to take 'no' for an answer and don't let any opportunity slip by," Hemmis said.
Now in her fourth season of a six-year contract on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," Hemmis has started Tuff Chix, a line of work wear and accessories for women builders and is writing her first book, the "Tuff Chix Guide to Easy Home Improvements."
What's around the next bend? Racecar driving could be on track.
What was your first experience with bucking a traditional gender role?
Even when I was little, I was such a tomboy. I loved doll houses, but didn't like to play with dolls. I'd get a doll house and I'd make furniture and rearrange it, but I'd give the dolls away to the girls in the neighborhood. Later, all my jobs were typically jobs that guys would do. I was an emergency medical technician in college and I moved merchandise at Costco.
Was there ever a time when you felt like you just couldn't break a gender barrier and if so how did you handle it?
My job on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is the most challenging job that I've ever had. Before I became known as a member of the show, I'd go to Home Depot to ask questions about how to do something and it was hard for people to take me seriously -- they just couldn't believe that I was going to be the one doing the work.
What positive impacts do you think come out of women breaking traditional gender barriers?
It doesn't limit us women. The worst thing you can do to a person is to tell them that they can't do something. I think women in carpentry bring extra creativity to the craft.
You've had many diverse experiences. Are you living your dream today? And how have all those other jobs that you've held helped you get there?
I'm a Jill of all Trades, a master of none. I love the fact that I can help people on the set with a variety of problems. I can show someone how to figure out a mortgage because of my background in real estate or if they get hurt I can stitch them up.
Working in a lot of different industries also has given me a good sense of how people are treated. When I worked at Costco moving big things back and forth, I think people saw me as someone to do their work rather than as a person. The experience taught me a lot about how to treat other people.
What traits have propelled you to success and what success secrets can you share?
Never, never give up. People may tell me no, but I'm not going to listen. Growing up with an entrepreneur for a dad and an investor for a mom, I was always told that I could do anything that I wanted.
How far back does your love of carpentry go?
It's not a love of carpentry, it's a love of real estate. I bought a bunch of rental properties in 2000 and 2001 and quickly learned that I could save a whole lot of money if I learned to fix them up by myself.
How did you get involved in real estate?
I read the book "Real Estate Riches" and got inspired. The book basically said that you shouldn't wait if you really want to invest in real estate, so I raised money by making business presentations to my friends and family members, and bought 14 homes in three months.
How did you get discovered by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"?
I had just bought my 15th home and decided to go on a show called "Monster House" to win tools to work on more houses. While filming that show, I was discovered by the producers of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Women are fast outpacing men in terms of education and job force but they are still behind in leadership roles. Do you think that women will ever catch up, and what's got to happen to get them there?
We're definitely on the right track and that number is going to catch up. It wasn't long ago that women couldn't even vote. The typical roles of men and women are lingering and they'll stay, but women have proven that they can step up and do amazing jobs.
Why a pink tool belt? Is it just a gimmick, or does it say something about your feelings on gender roles?
I started wearing pink because I wanted to be cute and still do my job. I just wanted to show that just because you are in a guy's world and doing carpentry that you don't have to look like a guy.
You race cars, hike and rock climb. Are you involved in any other extreme sports? What's the attraction?
My dad, Larry Huff, was racecar driver in the 1960s. His racing name was "Soapy Sales." Racing is in my blood and I love the thrill. But I also like to be out in nature enjoying the sights. My boyfriend and I are planning to visit the Na Pali coast after the conference in Hawaii.