Women have made great strides in leadership since the University of Hawaiʻi Commission on the Status of Women began in 1972, but the work is far from over.

“We’re always concerned about how we can increase safety issues across our campus, this also goes into domestic violence and relationship issues,” explains UH Hilo’s Farrahmarie Gomes, chair of the UH Commission on the Status of Women. “[Also] professional development and making sure we can facilitate an environment for people to grow.”

To that end, the commission sponsored the Healthy Living: Mind, Body and Career conference bringing together nearly 200 people from across the UH System and the community to network, share ideas and continue the work of raising consciousness about the status of women.

The challenge is balance, according to keynote speaker Maenette Benham, dean of the UH Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and mother to two young children.

“Here you have a group of women from across the university system who are doing an extraordinary amount of work to care for other people. And what they need to remember to do is to also take care of themselves, so that they can sustain that spirit of serving and find happiness and joy in it.”

Sunny Massad
Sunny Massad, the featured speaker at the University of Hawaiʻi’s Healthy Living: Mind, Body and Career conference

A panel of distinguished women leaders from UH and the business community discussed the issues of women in leadership. That was followed by an inspirational session with psychologist and hypnotherapist Sunny Massad who reminded audience members not to sabotage their thinking with fear.

The day ended with facilitated group discussions that led to recommendations for the commission and university leadership.

“It’s been really great, the speakers they’ve invited have been talented and inspiring,” said Mānoa social work graduate student Jess Glasser. “It’s great to see the university stand behind this. I’m really interested in seeing what happens after the conference.”

Gomes is also looking forward. “A lot of the women that we have working at the university are key players in the community as well. So we realize our role extends far beyond the university campus and we take that very seriously.”

—By Jeela Ongley