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Emily Reber Porter Recognized as a Woman of Distinction

03/13/19

Midweek -- Every year, Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i recognizes Women of Distinction — community leaders from diverse fields who represent the best and brightest females in the state.

“One of the things we feel very strongly about is adult mentors and strong female role models, and each year we honor different women in different industries. This year, each one has a STEM focus,” explains Shari Chang, CEO of Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i.

It all fits in with the Girl Scouts’ general mission of bringing out the G.I.R.L. in every one of its members: Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader.

“What’s exciting to see is the youthfulness of this year’s honorees, because they’re all amazing leaders in their industries, and I think that’s just a great opportunity for the girls to see: These ladies, it didn’t take them 30, 40 years to get where they are. That’s the signal we want the girls to see: We want to make sure girls see leaders like this in all different industries in the community.”

This year’s Women of Distinction are Ann Teranishi, executive vice president, operations of American Savings Bank; Emily Porter, chief operating officer of The MacNaughton Group; and Dawn Lippert, chief executive officer of Elemental Excelerator.

CHANGE

The funny thing is, these women didn’t necessarily start their careers in their desired niche. Porter and Teranishi, for example, both come from law backgrounds.

“I started out as a litigator, and then I became a tech executive in San Francisco, and four years ago I moved home to be COO of The MacNaughton Group,” Porter recaps. “Each career and the skills and experience that I gained in each of them sort of naturally led to my next career stop.”

Teranishi agrees that her path was much the same.

“I certainly had not planned to be a banker early in my life or even as I was practicing law,” she says with a laugh. “I really started off banking in an in-house legal department, probably the opposite of all the leadership books telling you how to be a CEO of your own company.”

It was Lippert who had the most “conventional,” so to speak, career path. She’s always been devoted to the idea of clean energy, and how people can better their lives and communities by investing in it.

“I started out my career at a larger firm, a financial energy consultant, and what really drove me here is that I have an incredible mentor, Maurice Kaya, who … asked me out here to help him start an innovation initiative, so that as Hawai‘i transitions to clean energy, we can actually reap the benefit of that from an economic development and job creation and innovation economy standpoint.”

DIVERSITY

While each woman works in radically different fields, they agree there’s a lot of common ground between them — namely, in being able to work with and bring together people from a myriad of backgrounds.

“I always start with people first,” says Teranishi, whose job finds her supporting the front-line employees at ASB, ensuring each component of the banking experience is working smoothly. “I start with people, process then systems. To me, spending a little bit of time understanding the perspectives of the people involved with the issues, trying to listen, really listen, to diagnose and critically think through whether we are even focused on the right issue or the right discussion.”

Lippert, as leader of a startup funder, agrees: “One of the challenges we face is just communicating what it’s like to be a startup, and then helping partners and customers work successfully with startups.”

To achieve these kinds of skills, says Porter, who spends most of her days focusing on optimizing cross-functionality among the many clients at her real estate firm, is a direct result of solid mentorship: “I was really fortunate to experience two fantastic mentors who were really different from one another. One was a more reserved man, and one was a brilliant and colorful woman.

“What they taught me was that you just had to embrace who you were and be excellent as yourself.”

The bottom line, all agree, is being able to work with others and embrace their diversity — something familiar to the Girl Scouts’ mantra.

THE FUTURE

Knowing that their new status as Women of Distinction comes with serving as role models for hundreds of Girl Scouts around the state, the women offered a few words of well-earned wisdom.

Lippert credits passion as the driving force behind her career.

“Find something you’re really passionate about, and that you feel like is a problem you would want to spend your life solving,” she says. “You’ll find happiness and a sense of fulfillment addressing that and using whatever talents you have for that end.”

Porter thinks focusing on being the best self you can be is the key to success.

“The most important thing is to be a good person, to be honest, respectful, caring and appreciative. It’s a high bar, but it’s the baseline that I think you have to live your life by, and then the next thing is just to focus on the things that are within your control rather than worry about the things you can’t control.”

Teranishi has a slightly different view of things. In her experience, flexibility is the key.

“Keep your options open and try to be flexible as you approach how you’re thinking about your career or your interests,” she says. “If you create too much of a set path for yourself, you might miss out on opportunities.

“That has been my experience at my current bank. I started off in compliance, which starts off the legal career, then I went to credit, then customer experience, then operations.”

All three women agree, however, that participation in Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i sets up young women for success, no matter where their careers take them.

“I’m a huge fan of the STEM work that the Girl Scouts are embarking on, and particularly what’s really special about Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i is this place-based, culture-based connection,” Lippert says.

“If you look at the world today, women are not equally in leadership roles and, to me, that means there’s something a little different about growing up as a girl and a woman, and it’s nice to be able to spend time with fellow girls and women leaders and focus on what that means,” Porter adds.

The 2019 Women of Distinction Dinner will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. March 15 at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikīkī Beach Resort in the Coral Ballroom. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit gshawaii.org.

GIRL SCOUTS AND STEM

Big things are ahead for Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i, says CEO Shari Chang. “The Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i are building a STEM Center for Excellence at Camp Paumalu,” she says, adding that ground-breaking will take place later this year at the organization’s outdoor camp on the North Shore, with an expected completion date of late 2020. “There will be year-round opportunities in cybersecurity, robotics, botany, chemistry, environmental stewardship and more.”

All this, of course, is part of a larger push by the Girl Scouts to put 2.5 million girls in STEM careers by 2025.

“We had the first chemistry badge for years. Nowadays, it’s really different. We’re very excited that Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i are piloting the cybersecurity program with Palo Alto Networks. These programs start as early as kindergarten, which is important to have girls excited, competent and confident.”

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