East-West Center GEMs


East-West Center has empowered thousands of future women leaders who have thrived in our diverse and inclusive community. Today, many have a gender equality multiplier effect (GEM) in their professions, communities, and in the region. Below are stories of East-West Center alumni who embody the GEM effect.


Uschi Schreiber

The East West Center partnered with global professional services firm EY and its Women. Fast forward program on gender parity in June 2017 to host the inaugural Asia Pacific consultation W20 for the G20.

Uschi Schreiber is Global Vice Chair, Markets at EY and initiator of Women. Fast forward. She is a member of EY’s Global Executive Board. Uschi is the founder of the Worldwide Women Public Sector Leaders Network and an advisor to the Women Political Leaders Global Forum.  

Recognized as one of the top 10 global voices on management and culture by LinkedIn in 2016, Uschi is a transformational leader who is passionate about making a difference in the world. Hailing from Germany, having lived in Asia and held senior executive roles in Australia, Uschi is a true global citizen, now residing in New York. She is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion, actively supporting the advancement of women and gender parity across EY’s quarter of a million employees and on the global policy stage through her engagement with the World Economic Forum and other international bodies.

Linda Furuto

Linda Furuto with Nainoa Thompson, Master Navigator and President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society

As an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) College of Education, Dr. Linda Furuto advocates for equitable and accessible mathematics for all. Inspired by the values instilled during her upbringing (intergenerational wisdom, vision, kindness, compassion, resourcefulness and respect) and her own teachers who realized early on that her optimal learning was through hands-on, real-world experiences (i.e. trigonometry and angles in spearfishing), Linda is dedicated to helping students understand that their knowledge and identity has a place both inside and outside the mathematics classroom.

In 2006-2007, Linda participated in one of the East-West Center’s signature programs - The Asia Pacific Leadership Program (APLP). Linda valued the opportunity to engage with inspiring people from all over the world – “The extraordinary experiences provided me with opportunities to interact with local and global organizations, communities, and places, and these relationships have helped me navigate the past 10 years of my life.” As an APLP Fellow, Linda received the Nainoa Thompson Scholarship recognizing her potential for outstanding community leadership. As the scholarship recipient, she met master pwo (navigator) and President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society - Nainoa Thompson, who subsequently became her kumu (teacher), mentor, and hero. 

Navanethem Pillay

Navanethem "Navi" Pillay, a South African national, was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008-2014. From her humble beginnings growing up in a slum and studying law in an old potato factory in apartheid South Africa, Navi went on to have a distinguished career fighting for social justice at both the grassroots and institutional levels.

Navi was the first woman to start a law practice in her home province of Natal in 1967 where she went on to act as a defense attorney for anti-apartheid activists, exposing torture, and helping establish key rights for prisoners on Robben Island. In 1995, after Nelson Mandela became president, Navi was appointed as acting and then confirmed judge on the South African High Court – when the call came through she initially thought it was her brother playing a prank. In the same year she was elected by the United Nations General Assembly to be a judge (and later President) on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which became the first international criminal tribunal to

AIJI Representatives meet with Navi Pillay during her visit to Stanford University

define rape as an act of genocide (The Akayesu Verdict). From 2003 - 2008, Navi was a judge on the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Navi co-founded Equality Now, an international women’s rights organization, and has been involved with organizations working on a range of economic, social and cultural rights.

As an affiliate and supporter of the Asian International Justice Initiative (AIJI), a former collaboration between East-West Center and the WSD HANDA Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University, Navi reflects on her journey and offers advice to young women navigating their career paths.

Melialani James

A leader in the Hawaii start-up and venture capital community, Melialani “Meli” James has guided and helped fund dozens of local start-ups. Born and raised in Honolulu, Meli lived in Silicon Valley for over a decade, where she co-founded numerous start-ups including a leading wine-rating app.

As a Host Mentor for East-West Center’s Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar in 2016, Meli provided a platform for both knowledge transfer and networking for her mentee - “As a mentor I was incredibly impressed with the caliber of the entrepreneurs from across the Asia-Pacific region selected for the East-West Center's Changing Faces Seminar. 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 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. Women who are from very different backgrounds and businesses meet and learn with others traveling in the same direction on their entrepreneurship journey. They realize others face the same challenges and they are not alone which is very empowering for them.  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.”

Christina Cogen

When Christina (‘Tippi’) Cogen’s Rotary Sponsor, Scott Paul, kindly gave her a ticket to East-West Center’s #galswithLEI Forum 2016 she was initially reluctant to attend due to her perception that such events were really just “fluffy talks about girl power”. After being involved with the event for the past few years, Scott knew that Tippi would benefit from attending - “Tippi is the type of person who fills the room with oxygen and then ignites it with her enthusiasm... I got to know her well and was so impressed by how she pours her entrepreneurial skills into creating social change. I knew Tippi would learn so much from attending the event and also bring a lot to it.” Tippi’s stereotype was transformed when she realized LEI stood for Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Inspiration.

The #galswithLEI Forum provides the opportunity for women leaders in Hawaii to build leadership skills, exchange entrepreneurial best practices and inspire one another through a series of interactive workshops. Tippi praised the substance, depth and relevance of topics presented, the opportunities for authentic discussion among participants and the connections she made with local and international women that inspired and continues to inspire her success - “The intimacy of the event combined with the substance and quality of the table-talks allowed me to make deep connections with amazing women who were strangers at the start of the day and friends at the end. One year on, I am still in touch with three women who encourage and guide me in my work.”

Brianne West

Since attending East-West Center’s Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar in 2016, Brianne West’s professional accomplishments have skyrocketed. Ethique, Brianne’s sustainable beauty products company, has seen a 500% increase in sales after being profiled in both Forbes and Huffington Post and endorsed on Twitter by celebrities Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher. All this growth has necessitated the hiring of three new staff, acquiring a bigger premises and opening up shipping to consumers in America.

Through networks built at the East-West Center, Brianne is now sourcing coconut oil from an East-West Center alumni in Samoa and helping to improve their local production capabilities - “We are working with them to produce our body wash bars and also investigating whether they can produce our cocoa butter and creamed coconut. The latter is particularly interesting because we may be able to make the products from the coconut which they have already pressed oil out of - so what it currently a waste product could be utilised.”

Brianne’s success and commitment to sustainability was recognised when she was named on the list of US Foreign Policy’s 100 leading “Global Thinkers” of 2016 among notable leaders such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Brianne’s international success caught the attention of prominent fashion magazines Marie Claire, Cosmo and Vogue among others, and she recently travelled to New York to attend meetings with them.