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Influential female leaders seek to inspire next generation of female innovators at #sheinnovates

    By Evie Lindblom and Alec Sang. September 19, 2018 - 10:14 am

In collaboration with SAP Next-Gen, Hawai’i Pacific University (HPU) hosted the #sheinnovates Hawai’i Meetup on September 17 at Aloha Tower Marketplace with more than 230 students, faculty and members of the community in attendance. The event brought influential female leaders together to inspire young women and students in Hawaii.

The program consisted of two panel discussions with 10 influential female leaders and a fireside chat with United States Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. The conversation centered around women’s advancement in innovation, technology and politics.

Panel one members (from left to right) Jan Boivin with Kate Poljakova, Rosemary Peh, Idilia Seixas, and Melilani James. Provided by Kiah Murphy

The first panel was led by Jan Boivin with Rosemary Peh, Idilia Seixas, Melilani James and Kate Poljakova present as panelists. Poljakova shared her ideas on the purpose of STEM innovation and what mentors play in providing the spaces and platforms for young women. Poljakova elaborated, “Role models are very important to close the gender gap because it allows women and girls to imagine themselves in these positions in the future.”

Among the panelists were HPU alumnae Sandra Moerch MBA ‘15 and Idilia Seixas Duarte MBA ‘17.

Ann Rosenberg, global head of SAP Next-Gen, led the second panel and described Moerch and Duarte as “incredible talents”. Rosenberg continued, “I think there is a very important story to tell here: that this university gives a foundation for people to be world citizens.”

Panel two members (from left to right) Ann Rosenberg with Nicole Velasco, Maya Rogers, Sissel Hansen and Sandra Mark. Provided by Steven Gransky

The second panel consisted of Sissel Hansen, Maya Rogers, Sandra Mark and Nicole Velasco. All the women interviewed on the panel stressed the importance of acknowledging existent global gender inequality.

To inspire young entrepreneurs, Sissel Hansen, CEO and Founder of Startup Guide, gave insight into starting a business at a young age. Hansen shared her story of having faced failure when she started her first company at 18, an experience that helped her grow and re-launch her company at 22. Hansen reiterated that there is no age and time limit to start a business.

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (left) answers a question from Sandra Moerch (right). Provided by Steven Gransky

Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa took the stage after the completion of the second panel and explained how she believes gender equality can be attained in politics. “You can’t be afraid of losing, what you’ve got to do is learn from each loss and you’ve got to be ready to face on each challenge after that.”

Hanabusa served as Senate Majority Leader before being elected the first woman President of the Senate in 2006 – making her the first Asian American woman to preside over a state legislative chamber in the United States. Hanabusa reiterated her view that gender equality has a critical point in dealing with politics, as it is part of the greater goals of fairness and justice.

At the conclusion of the event, attendees were given the opportunity to network with the guest speakers. HPU Freshman, Madeleine Lyu who is thinking about going into political science explained, “this event has inspired me to get involved with politics. I definitely want to ask the congresswoman if there are internships and what I can do to start it.”

Hanabusa stopped to speak with a group of students after the event. When asked what advice she had for young women who feel discouraged by a lack of female representation, she said, “There is only one way you can address any kind of deficiency or lack of representation, and that’s that you have got to make yourself a part of the solution.”