Changing Faces Women's Leadership Seminar

Women’s labor force participation and entrepreneurship are increasingly salient factors in the economic growth and societal transformation of the Asia Pacific. Numerous studies demonstrate that economic empowerment of women positively affects economic growth. Studies also indicate that when women acquire and control monetary and capital assets, women tend to reinvest in food, healthcare, and education for both themselves and their children, all of which has a multiplier effect on job creation and economic growth. In addition to positively affecting economic growth, the financial empowerment of women often translates into greater bargaining power in their homes. Societal benefits also accrue when women work outside the home, bringing them into contact with new people and ideas and providing avenues for greater participation in public life, including community activism.[1]

Unfortunately, in every country across the Asia Pacific region, a gender gap exists with respect to labor participation as well as new venture creation and business ownership. A 2011 study by the International Labor Office and the Asian Development Bank determined that, in terms of labor force participation rates—a measure of the proportion of a country’s working age population actively engaged in the labor market either by working or looking for work—women in the Asia & Pacific region (defined by the study to include Central Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Oceania) average 25.2 percentage points lower than men in terms of labor force participation.[2] Another report estimates that only 1% of all women workers in the Asia Pacific region are running their own businesses with paid employees.[3]

Research suggests that poor access to training, networks, role models, and information limits the ability of Asia Pacific women entrepreneurs both to create businesses and to grow their businesses from sole proprietorships to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). One report concluded that women lack the opportunity to access specific entrepreneurship and leadership training such as business planning, marketing, finance, negotiation, communication, and other acquired competencies, which would increase the likelihood of entrepreneurial success.[4] Since most Asia Pacific women entrepreneurs operate on a small scale and are not members of professional organizations or other formal business networks, they typically lack the contacts and social capital necessary to access information and advice regarding financial, labor, customer, and supplier resources.[5] A lack of social capital also deprives women of awareness and exposure to female role models, which may help to normalize entrepreneurial behavior or mitigate social pressures and family obligations.

To address the challenges confronting working women entrepreneurs in the Asia Pacific, including poor access to leadership and entrepreneurial training; insufficient contacts and social capital necessary to access information and advice; a paucity of role models; and a “lack of positive attitudes about their own personal capacities” (Kelley et al., 2011, p. 8), the East-West Center established the Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar in 2002. This 12-day immersive, leadership and professional development seminar is designed for innovative women entrepreneurs from Asia, the Pacific, and the United States to enhance their leadership skills and entrepreneurial capacity; experientially explore innovative entrepreneurship, leadership, and community examples; build a sense of self-efficacy; and expand national and regional networks. The Changing Faces Seminar seeks to:

  • Enhance the entrepreneurial capacity and leadership skills of innovative women through facilitated training exercises, workshops, meetings; and community site visits;
  • Implement a year-long project for the betterment of a participant’s business or community by means of a concrete Action Plan;
  • Expand the social capital of participants and establish a community of women leaders via networking opportunities and on-going social media contact with speakers, trainers, Changing Faces alumni, the local community, and one another;
  • Create regional awareness among participants through reciprocal learning and exposure to new ideas and divergent perspectives;
  • Empower the next generation of women leaders in Hawaii by way of a service project undertaken in partnership with the Sacred Hearts Academy.

To date, 169 women from 33 countries have participated in the Changing Faces Seminar. For a complete list of the Changing Faces alumnae, please click here. To read about how our Changing Faces alumni, Host Mentors, and #galwithLEI attendees are generating jobs, strengthening communities, and creating change, click here.

Be part of building a global community of women leaders by supporting the participation of business and social entrepreneurs in the Changing Faces Women's Leadership Seminar and extending this opportunity to innovative and inspiring women!



2018 Changing Faces Women's Leadership Seminar

Theme:  Women as Innovators and Entrepreneurs

The 2018 Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar will focus on the important role that innovation and entrepreneurship play in contributing to economic growth, job creation, and strengthening communities. During this 12-day professional training, dialogue and travel program, participants engage in a series of workshops focused on leadership and entrepreneurship that are facilitated by a noted women’s leadership trainer and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Participants also expand their knowledge of entrepreneurship, economic growth, leadership, and community building through carefully selected field visits and meetings with experts, practitioners, business owners, and policymakers in Hawaii. Participants are individually matched with local women leaders in a Host Mentor program and, in return, Changing Faces participants act as mentors for a select group of high school students in a Next Generation Service Project. The Changing Faces Seminar also provides training and consultative sessions to help participants develop and actualize a concrete Action Plan for the betterment of their business or their community. Finally Changing Faces women serve as panelists, moderators and attendees at the publically ticketed #galswithLEI, a purposeful, collaborative, and dynamic forum.

Dates:  May 6 -19, 2018

Study Destinations:  Oahu and Maui

Funding:  The 2018 Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar is funded by the East-West Center and individual scholarships made possible by alumni and others. EWC plus individual scholarships will fund six to eight women from the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region, defined as:  Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Vietnam. EWC and scholarship funding covers lodging and meals on Oahu and Maui, local ground transportation, interisland airfare to Maui, and other programmatic costs. Participants are responsible for their roundtrip airfare to and from Honolulu, visa fees, health insurance and baggage charges. EWC encourages additional participant cost-sharing of programmatic costs and considers cost-sharing in the selection of applicants.

East-West Center and scholarship funding is not available for citizens outside the Asia Pacific region, but qualified women from outside the region are highly encouraged to apply. Applicants not from those countries listed above must pay a seminar fee, of USD $2,675/per participant, to be paid prior to the beginning of the seminar. Self-funded women are also responsible for their flights to and from Honolulu as well as visa fees, health insurance and baggage fees. The seminar fee covers the following programmatic costs:     

  • Interisland airfare from Oahu to Maui
  • Ground transportation and airport transfers
  • Lodging on Oahu and Maui for 12 days
  • Provided program meals and a modest per diem
  • Pro-rated speaker honorariums and training workshops
  • Individually tailored host mentorship
  • Cultural activities and networking opportunities
  • Seminar flash drive of program documents, speaker PowerPoint presentations and photos
  • Participant resource materials
  • Experienced facilitators with knowledge of regional and women’s leadership issues


Application Information

Eligibility:  The Changing Faces Seminar targets female business owners and social entrepreneurs who have demonstrated leadership and ability to affect change and influence others in their communities. Innovative entrepreneurs, business managers, government and industry policymakers, and civil society leaders with at least seven years of work experience and who play a leadership role in their community are eligible to apply. Innovators may generally be defined as those who have created an original idea or product or are recognized for their ability to improve upon an original idea or system. Applicants must have the ability to communicate in English in a professional setting. Preference is given to candidates with limited opportunities for international exchange and professional development as well as those who offer to cost-share programmatic costs. A phone interview may be conducted with finalists.

Deadline:  Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Required Documents:  All applicants must submit a completed application form as well as the following. Remember to save the application to your desktop before filling it out.

  • Letter of Interest (maximum three pages) including:
    • A brief description of your company/organization and your role
    • What you expect to contribute to and gain from participating in Changing Faces
    • Concrete example(s) of your professional leadership and innovation, as defined above
    • Demonstrated potential for impact within your community
    • Identify an actionable goal for either for your organization or community that you wish to work on and outline the role you can or would like to play in achieving that goal. *NOTE* This will serve as the basis of your Action Plan for the coming year.
  • Resume/CV (maximum two pages)
  • Two Professional Letters of Recommendation describing your suitability for the seminar. The letters should be signed and on letterhead.


Late applications will not be accepted.

Please send applications by Tuesday, February 8th via email, fax or post to:

Email:                     Inquiries: 808-944-7368
Changing Faces Women's Leadership Seminar
Professional Development, Seminars
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, HI  96848-1601  U.S.A
Fax: 1-808-944-7600

PLEASE NOTE, for fax and e-mail submissions: Indicate “Changing Faces Application” in the subject heading. We will confirm receipt of the application within 5 working days. If you do not hear back from us, please follow up.


2017 Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar 

Theme:  Women as Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Dates:  Sunday, June 18 - Saturday, July 1, 2017

Study Destinations:  Honolulu, Kona, and Hilo, Hawaii

The 2017 Changing Faces Women were: 

  • Viola CHENG, Chief Executive Officer, Good Food Enterprises Co., Ltd., Taipei, Taiwan
  • Huong Linh DANG, Operations Manager, TRAFFIC Hanoi, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Mele FINEFEULIAKI, Owner & Manager, Lotopoha Export Trading, Nuku’alofa, Tonga
  • Lorissa GARCIA, Owner, Indigenous Leadership Initiatives and Mentor, Native American Women's Leadership Program, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico, USA
  • Samantha R. JONES, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Little Yellow Bird, Wellington, New Zealand
  • Christina LEEF, Administrative Officer, Maori Women’s Development Inc., Wellington, New Zealand
  • Irina Sofia MOHAMAD, Business Manager, Makanlahse Sdn. Bhd, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Nidhi PAREKH, Director, Ninos Out-of School Club, Raipur, India
  • Lissa PIERCY, Co-founder & Director, Strength of Doves, Washington, DC
  • Radziah MOHD RADZI, Founder, Good Hijab and President, Sisterhood Alliance, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Nisansala W.K. RAJAPAKSA, Head of Publications, Cancer Care Association of Sri Lanka, Homagama, Sri Lanka
  • Giang Ngan TRAN VU, Executive Director, LIN Center for Community Development, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
  • Ginger K.VAUGHN, Media and Communications Faculty, Akita International University and Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Content, SET, Tokyo, Japan
  • Zhenxi ZHONG, Executive Director, Shanghai Roots & Shoots, Shanghai, China



Changing Faces Impacts

Please find stories about the impact of the Changing Faces program by clicking on the links below.


Seminar Methodology
The annual Changing Faces Seminar enhances leadership skills and builds a global community of entrepreneurial leaders through the following activities:
Skills Training:  Leadership and Entrepreneurial
The Changing Faces methodology is featured as a model for women’s entrepreneurship and leadership training in the recent publication, Women and Leadership Around the World, available from the publisher, Information Age Publishing.

In small- and large-groups, participants engage in training exercises that identify and develop their leadership skills as well as build confidence through participatory learning. Specific training exercises are tailored to the incoming cohort of women through pre-arrival self-assessment questionnaires and cover such topics as:  mapping the past and present, creative thinking, team building, communication and public speaking, negotiation, and strategic planning. The Seminar’s leadership training exercises are facilitated by a recognized scholar in women’s leadership and practicing corporate trainer, thereby enabling participants to benefit from both the latest scholarly research and real world practicalities.

A partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Outreach College builds the entrepreneurial capacity of Changing Faces participants. The Outreach College conceptualizes, plans, and instructs up to six workshops over two days covering such topics as:  market research and branding; developing effective business plans; identifying sources of capital; budgeting and financial planning; and analyzing opportunities for women and minority entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurial workshops are tailored to the self-assessed needs of the incoming cohort and benefit mid-career participants who may not have the access, monetary resources or the time to engage in a longer management or leadership class at a university. 

Community Field Visits

Community site visits and meetings with government officials, business executives, academics, non-profits, and other leaders in the Hawaii community contextually explore entrepreneurship, leadership, economic growth, and community building. The women look at diverse examples of entrepreneurship in agriculture, clean technology, community development, services, finance, and public-private partnerships. Recent Seminars, for example, have included a visit to Ali’i Lavender Farm, which has become the most successful agri-tourism business on the island of Maui through creative public relations, branding and community-building, and now provides sustainable livelihoods for local artisans, producers and professionals. Site visits are selected based on the women’s pre-arrival questionnaires and the types of businesses represented by each cohort. Site visits attuned to the women’s areas of interest provide inspiration and concrete examples that the Changing Faces women can take back and apply to their own contexts while also connecting them to international contacts and networks that may be of value to them long after the Seminar concludes.

#galswithLEI Forum

Augmenting the community outreach of the Changing Faces Seminar is a publicly ticketed event. The #galswithLEI Forum celebrates the Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Inspiration of female business and social entrepreneurs in generating jobs and strengthening communities. #galswithLEI is not your typical event. Rather, information sharing is purposeful, collaborative, and dynamic. #galswithLEI offers six interactive workshops focused on Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Inspiration followed by a networking reception and an attendee driven open space forum. Workshop panelists and special guests include local established women leaders, bold millennials, and the international Changing Faces Women – blending experience, ambition, and passion.

#galswithLEI will take place Thursday, May 17, 2018 from 1:30pm - 7:30pm at the East-West Center's IMIN Conference Center

For more information click on the logo below

Action Plan Development and Presentation

Skills training and consultative sessions help each participant elucidate and refine an actionable plan, which clearly identifies a critical goal, the necessary actions to achieve that goal and when they will be taken, and what resources are needed. Participants are asked to come to Hawaii having identified a goal that they would like to achieve through their work or community activities in the coming year. Throughout the Seminar, participants are guided through a set of activities including a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis, peer mentoring, and individual advising sessions to help them analyze and concretize their action plans. In the final days of the Seminar, Changing Faces participants are asked to share their action plans in a formal presentation, which affords practice in articulating their plan to funders, supervisors, or peers, and demonstrates what they have learned about strategic planning and public speaking as a result of the skills training.

As many of the action plans seek to better the women’s business or social entrepreneurial success and impact, the community multiplier effect of implemented action plans in terms of job creation and strengthening communities is potentially significant. For example, a Changing Faces alumna from Vietnam developed an ambitious action plan to establish a non-governmental, non-profit organization in her home country aimed at promoting volunteerism and charitable giving as well as providing support services for local non-profits. Two years later, she launched the LIN Center for Community Development, which contributed 10,577 volunteer hours and dispersed 11 grants valued at over VND 512 million in 2013 alone. Tracking implementation of the action plans also provides a meaningful way for the women to remain in touch with and to support one another other after the Seminar concludes. 

Host Mentors

A Host Mentor Program carefully matches local women of Hawaii who demonstrate exemplary leadership skills and share similar career and/or community interests with individual Changing Faces participants. The Host Mentor Program serves as a platform for both knowledge transfer and networking. Each host mentor is expected to exchange contact information with, meet with, and be available to her mentee for advice both during and after the Changing Faces Seminar. In 2014, a Filipino participant working to market and sell her local indigenous community’s hand-woven fabrics and handicrafts was paired with the owner and designer of a clothing brand for petite women made locally in Hawaii. The Changing Faces participant had entered into the textile trade with no experience or relevant professional contacts and with little knowledge of the quality standards, needs, and interests of national and international markets. The host mentor was able to validate the quality of the participant’s products, offer marketing advice, and provide linkages to potential foreign buyers. Melialani James, Head of New Ventures at Sultan Ventures, a Honolulu-based boutique venture firm said of her mentoring experience, “My mentee asked excellent questions and took practical action based on the feedback that resonated with her; I was delighted she took the time to follow up subsequently and tell me how she had valued the advice I had given her. It was a very worthwhile experience and I am so glad the East-West Center continues to provide such a welcoming environment for a diverse range of cultures. There is real magic in the way a cohesive cohort is created and of course a multiplier impact on not only their own businesses, but also their countries’ economies, when they return home." Past host mentors have also included a vice president of the Bank of Hawaii, the executive director of the Women’s Fund of Hawaii, and the president of the State Senate of Hawaii.

Next Generation Service Project

Partnership with Sacred Hearts Academy, an all-girls preparatory school, provides an opportunity for Changing Faces women to inspire the next generation by sharing their personal and professional experiences and their thoughts on leadership, entrepreneurship, and community development through individual mentoring sessions with students. In the Next Generation Service Project, Sacred Hearts students are nominated by their teachers and then matched with the Changing Faces women they are most interested in meeting. The 2014 Changing Faces Seminar matched 33 Sacred Hearts girls with 13 Changing Faces women to broaden the girls’ knowledge of the Asia Pacific region, encourage them to consider entrepreneurship, and build confidence in pursuing their aspirations. While Hawaii’s next generation benefits from exposure to female leaders from the Asia Pacific region, the service project also reinforces leadership skills taught earlier in the Seminar and provides the Changing Faces women with a community model that can easily be replicated to inspire the next generation in their own countries.

Network Building

In addition to the formal networking opportunities provided by the Seminar, Changing Faces participants have an opportunity to foster relationships with present and past Changing Faces women. Each new group of Changing Faces women is introduced both to each other and to previous generations of program women via a Facebook page. Alumnae of the program can seek out other women in their home and surrounding countries for support as they work to actualize their goals and action plans. Participants, thus, build life-long networks through which they share business ideas and challenges, personal and professional accomplishments, and informational resources. The professional networking opportunities the Changing Faces Seminar affords is exemplified by two 2010 Changing Faces women from Indonesia and Malaysia, who partnered with one another to open new franchises of the Indonesian participant’s popular fast-food chain in Malaysia a year after their meeting in the 2010 Seminar.

[1] UNDP Asia-Pacific Human Development Report Unit. (2010). Power, Voice and Rights: A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific. United Nations Development Program Regional Center for Asia Pacific.

[2] ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific & Asian Development Bank. (2011). Women and Labor Markets in Asia: Rebalancing for Gender Equality. Bangkok: ILO. Page 4. Retrieved from

[3] International Labor Office. (2011). Global Employment Trends 2011: The challenge of a Jobs Recovery. Geneva:  ILO. Retrieved from

[4] Debroux, Philippe (n.d.). Women Entrepreneurship in Asia: The cases of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. Retrieved from    

[5] Kelley, D. J., Brush, C. G., Greene, P. G., & Litovsky, Y. (2011). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. 2010 Report: Women Entrepreneurs Worldwide. Babson Park:  Babson College. Retrieved from


Contact Information
Liz A. Dorn
Seminars Program Coordinator
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, HI  96848  USA
Phone: 1-808-944-7368
Fax: 1-808-944-7600
If you would like to be on the e-mail list to be notified when the program is announced, please contact: