Women’s Equality Day event highlights roles at work, home

(Via Ho’okele News)

A Women’s Equality Day event was held on Aug. 26 at Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The guest speaker was Coralie Chun Matayoshi, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, Pacific Islands Region.

Congress designated Aug. 26 Women’s Equality Day in 1971. The annual event began as a commemoration of the passage of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. The amendment granted women the right to vote. Women’s Equality Day has since evolved to a broader recognition of women’s equality in society and the workplace.

Before introducing Matayoshi, Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific, said a few words about his own professional experiences working with women.

“I’ve had the privilege of serving with many female admirals,” he said. “We have many female leaders here at Pearl Harbor who inspire us and serve as some of my most trusted advisors.”

Coralie Chun Matayoshi, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, Pacific Islands Region, speaks at the Women's Equality Day event held Aug. 26 at Pearl Harbor Memorial Chapel.

He then introduced Matayoshi, telling her he looked forward to her sharing “your experience and your wisdom with our ohana.”

Matayoshi took the stage and spoke about her career as an attorney and the challenges she faced as both a professional woman and a mother. She also talked about her transition from the legal profession to the nonprofit world.

When she began working at the Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross, the organization was short-staffed and nearly bankrupt.

“I was really scared,” she said.

Within a year, the organization had turned a corner and went from almost bankrupt to having a $300,000 surplus.

“While I never expected to work with the Red Cross, everything I’d done in my life pointed me towards this job,” said Matayoshi.

Matayoshi also spoke about the ongoing struggle for women to achieve true equality and the obstacles they face. She specifically focused on how the pressure for women to assume the bulk of domestic duties in the home holds them back in their careers.

“As long as women and men are unequal at home they will not be equal in the workplace,” she said. “An average woman spends nearly twice as much time on housework and child raising then men.”

Matayoshi called on men and women to reconsider the way they think about issues related to gender and equality.

“Society must change,” she said. “Not only how men view women but how women view themselves.

Women need to stop downplaying their accomplishments and be more confident in their abilities.”

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