Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, February 16, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Mary Scott-Lau, left, coaches Loretta in the proper
greeting technique for a job interview.

It’s a win-win

Women who might remain victims
of their circumstances are instead taking
charge with a seminar called
'First Impressions'

By Cynthia Oi


Ruta is amazed. She didn't believe that the bright shade of lipstick Mary Scott-Lau chose for her to wear would look good, but it did.

As a smile spreads across her face, she pulls her head up from her shoulders, straightens her spine and admires herself in a hand mirror. Just a new shade of lipstick and a woman is transformed from uncertain to self confident.

While clothes may not make the woman, sometimes an outward change does help her to realize her worth, Scott-Lau says.

She is executive director of Women In Need, an organization that helps women develop the basic tools and skills to become independent and productive -- to get a job.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Scott-Lau shows appropriate wardrobe.

Part of this development involves looking good for an interview, as well as knowing how to answer questions during that interview. Like the touch of lipstick, each skill a woman learns -- how to stand and to introduce herself, what to wear, how to list references -- all lend a little color to the portrait of a winner, Scott-Lau says.

WIN offers these instructions to women for free in a two-hour, self-development class called "First Impressions," sponsored by the YWCA and the Women's Resource Center.

In a recent session, five women from troubled backgrounds, all single mothers (they asked that their last names not be published) gather in a room at the Y. They are all eager to find jobs and Scott-Lau is there to help them.

She first tackles the superficial because, she says, what a woman looks like to a potential employer does matter. More importantly, when a woman looks good, she feels good and is more confident and therefore more likely to land a job.

So the session starts with how to stand, how to hold the body, how to sit, how to shake hands.

Scott-Lau's modeling experience kicks in here. She leads them through exercises to help them sit without fidgeting and walk and shake hands properly.

Everyone gets personal attention from Scott-Lau, who deals with each woman kindly and without condescension. She pretends to be the job interviewer and has them act out a greeting so they get a feel for the reality.

Most of the women who attend the classes don't know basic life skills, much less how to present themselves as potential employees, Scott-Lau says.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Ruta tries a recommended lipstick shade.

Some were homeless, others come from drug rehabilitation centers and abuse shelters and have had few opportunities to learn to care for themselves. They may see magazine articles and television shows, ads that sell shampoo and make up, but they don't identify themselves with the woman with the lustrous hair and the slinky gown. "That's not them."

"No one has ever taught them," Scott-Lau says, even about basic things like grooming. "Until someone takes you and tells you how to do these things, you're never going to listen."

Scott-Lau started WIN in 1996, after volunteering her expertise in modeling, advertising and media to another agency. She previously managed a self-improvement school in Saipan but saw there was a need to help women and girls who were at risk to rebuild their lives and self-esteem. Since then, WIN has grown to provide services for the Mary Jane Center, Weinberg Village, Hale Ola Wind-ward Abuse Shelter and others.

The advice she offers is practical. In a session on clothing, Scott-Lau first talks about what will look good on each woman and what won't. Then she tells them how to get the most out of a few pieces of clothing.

But the meat of the class focuses on how to get a job. Scott-Lau takes the women through a basic job application, giving them pointers on how to fill in the blanks.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Liu applies just the right touch of blush.

She tells them how the skills they've developed outside of the workplace can boost their employment appeal. For example, they can demonstrate organizational abilities by outlining how they put together a fund-raiser for their kids' soccer group.

Then they go through a mock job interview. Scott-Lau asks them the questions a potential employer might ask: Why do you want to work here, why did you leave your last job, what kind of salary are you looking for, what do you do in your spare time?

The women fumble with some answers and come up with winners for others. But the exercise helps them anticipate interviews and eases their fears of that situation.

"Before you go to that interview, you'll have to know the answers to these questions. So fill in that application and practice, practice, practice," Scott-Lau says.

With each segment of the class, the women seem to bulk up psychologically. The anxiety and discomfort that tinged them initially slowly falls away.

Ate at first scowled at the exercises. But in her play-acting interview, she won the group's applause as she stood attentively, strode to greet Scott-Lau, smiled, introduced herself and shook hands.

"Very good," Scott-Lau said.

Ate's response: "Then hire me now."


WIN sessions

Bullet What: "First Impressions," a self-development class for women in need
Bullet When: 10 a.m. to noon, Thursdays
Bullet Information and registration: 532-5630 or 259-9049

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin