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.

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. Research also 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). 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. 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, 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, 201 women from 35 countries have participated in the Changing Faces Seminar. 

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2021-22 Changing Faces Seminar

Theme: Women as Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Dates: July 25-31, 2021; July 24-August 6, 2022

Destinations: Virtual (2021); Oahu and Hawaii Island (2022)

Summary: The 2021-22 Changing Faces Women's Leadership Seminar brought together ten women entrepreneurs for a 1-week virtual seminar, which took place July 25-31, 2021 AND will add another two to six women for a 12-day in-person, professional training, dialogue, and travel seminar scheduled July 24-August 6, 2022. The Changing Faces Seminar focuses on the vital role that innovation and entrepreneurship play in contributing to economic growth, job creation, and strengthening communities. During this seminar, 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 publicly ticketed #galswithLEI, a purposeful, collaborative, and dynamic forum.

Funding:  The Changing Faces Women’s Leadership Seminar is funded by the East-West Center, the Fish Family Foundation, and others. Funding supports the participation of six to eight women from the United States and the Asia Pacific region. A full scholarship is estimated at USD$2,985/per participant and includes the following programmatic costs:

  • Interisland airfare from Oahu to Hawaii Island
  • Ground transportation and airport transfers throughout the 2022 program
  • Lodging on Oahu and Hawaii Island for 12 days of the 2022 program
  • Program meals and a modest per diem to cover meals not provided throughout the 2022 program
  • Pro-rated speaker honorariums and training workshops
  • Individually tailored host mentorship
  • Cultural activities and networking opportunities
  • Participant resource materials
  • Experienced facilitators with knowledge of regional and women’s leadership issues

All Changing Faces Women are responsible for their own roundtrip airfare to and from Honolulu, visa related expenses, health insurance, baggage fees, and vaccination costs. Given the limited number of scholarships available, the Center strongly encourages additional participant cost-sharing of programmatic costs and considers cost-sharing as evidence of an applicant’s commitment to self-growth, a desire to scale one’s business, and to the objectives of the Seminar. It is an important consideration of the Selection Committee.

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. Eligible countries include the United States and 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. 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.


COVID-19 Safety Policy

The East-West Center’s Changing Faces Seminar and #galswithLEI Forum Planning Team are working hard to ensure a safe environment and will be diligent in following all local, state, and federal (CDC) guidelines for pandemic precautions. Below are some specific safety policies we will have in place during the seminar and the #galswithLEI Forum:

  • All Center staff and participants must provide confirmation of full COVID-19 vaccination. A negative Covid-19 test result is insufficient. The Center follows CDC guidance/requirements for international travelers to the United States. Guidance to follow in terms of which vaccines and documentation of vaccinations accepted can be found at Requirement for Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination for Air Passengers | CDC.
  • Masks MUST be worn during all indoor seminar/forum activities (workshops, trainings, transportation, etc.). N95, KN95 or KF94 masks are highly recommended.
  • Conference and meeting rooms will be arranged to allow 3-6 feet of social distancing and temperature checks may be required for entry into John Burns Hall.
  • Meals served will be eaten outdoors and in bento/take away boxes or as single serve items. Meals served off-campus will abide by CDC and Hawaii State restaurant/capacity/mask/vaccination guidelines.
  • The Changing Faces Women, community speakers, and #galswithLEI panelists and attendees are required to agree to the EAST-WEST CENTER COVID-19 ASSUMPTION OF RISK, LIABILITY WAIVER, AND RELEASE OF CLAIMS FOR PARTICIPATION IN EWC ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS and comply with this COVID-19 Safety Policy.

If it is determined unsafe to convene in-person, the seminar and conference may be postponed or shift to a hybridized format. A hybridized 2022 Changing Faces Seminar and #galswithLEI Forum would include both in-person and virtual trainers, speakers, and community panels and an additional layer of protocols, such as rapid testing; all meals provided; and rooms with kitchen units prioritized and requested for all Changing Faces women.

If a participant tests positive for COVID-19 during the seminar, they would quarantine at Lincoln Hall and attend sessions virtually.


2019 Changing Faces Seminar

Theme:  Women as Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Dates:  July 7 - 20, 2019

Study Destinations:  Oahu and Maui

During the 2019 Changing Faces Women's Leadership Seminar, participants engaged in a series osf training exercises and workshops focused on leadership and entrepreneurship. Specific training exercises were tailored to the incoming cohort of women and covered such topics as:  learning from your past; strength finding; team building and creative thinking; unconscious bias and networking; active listening; and building confidence. These exercises blended academic theory, classroom instruction, and educational games/activities and many, like Drolma Gadou of China, appreciated the reflective nature of the leadership exercises, “Dr. Susan Madsen’s leadership activities helped me to discover my own strengths, embrace, and build upon them.” Tina Sablan of Saipan echoed this sentiment writing, “The leadership training was one of the most valuable parts of the seminar for me. I gained much deeper insight into my own strengths as a leader, my particular style of leadership, and the strengths and styles of others.” In addition, the participating women benefited from eight entrepreneurial workshops and several women noted that they were helpful in moving forward either their Action Plans or their businesses.

The women also looked at diverse examples of entrepreneurship, including visiting Pacific Biodiesel Technologies to explore its role as a leader in Hawaii’s environmental sustainability. Site visits were selected based on the women’s pre-arrival questionnaires and the types of businesses represented by the 2019 women. Emma Newland of Fiji wrote, “I found the site visits most valuable. Seeing successful women lead modern, inclusive, and thoughtful businesses and projects on the island was inspiring. Their examples offered so many ideas for my own business and island community. I also appreciated the broader placement of their work within their cultural contexts.” Similarly, Norhani Pacasum of the Philippines wrote that the community site visits “made us realize the potential of our own communities and the possibilities for role modeling leadership.”

Skills training and consultative sessions furthermore helped each participant elucidate and refine an Action Plan. As many action plans seek to scale up business or social entrepreneurial success and impact, the importance of the action plan exercises and the skills they impart can be significant and many of the 2019 women considered those exercises a highlight. Maricar Jaruda of the Philippines wrote, “For me the Action Plan was the heart of the seminar. Our way of paying forward all the things we learned here to the community which we belong.” Some of the women specifically noted that the group and individual advising sessions were helpful in moving them forward in the action planning process. Others noted that the structure and immediacy of the action planning process was useful. Fiona Ey of Samoa wrote, “Bookending the Action Plan papers and presentations was a very useful tool to evaluate my progress. The Action Plans also helped focus the outcomes of each session into a practical project to encourage implementation of our learned skills. They were also a useful tool for us to engage one another.” 

As the Changing Faces Seminar seeks to foster personal and professional relationships built upon on a shared desire to generate jobs and strengthen communities throughout the Asia Pacific region and the U.S., the 2019 Seminar also provided participants with exposure to more than 255 distinct contacts in two cities in the form of trainers, speakers, mentors, mentees, and #galswithLEI attendees. In particular, a Host Mentor Program individually matched local women of Hawaii with the 2019 Changing Faces women. Keiko Chida of Japan highlighted the importance of both the knowledge transfer and role modeling aspect of the host mentor program writing, “My host mentor was so inspiring and connected me to other local resource persons who offered ideas and shared best practices concerning palliative care awareness. I never expected to have an opportunity to meet someone in my field.” Vietnamese entrepreneur Ha Thu Nguyen likewise wrote, “It was great to be connected to a likeminded professional to share ideas and contacts. I intend to keep in touch with my mentor to continue exchanging knowledge and supporting one another.” The 2019 Seminar additionally connected 36 private and public school girls with our 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. Samoan Taua Kose wrote, “I enjoyed sharing with and learning from the students. It was a highlight.”

For some, the 2019 Changing Faces Seminar provided an opportunity to learn new skills and gain practical knowledge applicable to growing their business/organization and strengthening their community. Emma Newland captured this sentiment best writing, “I came to the seminar wearing two hats – as a business startup and a science advisor moving to a more senior position. I gained more insight, knowledge, and, subsequently, belief in my own ability and direction than I was expecting. The experience has been transformational and inspiring both personally and professionally.” For others, the interaction with one another was tremendously enriching. Shihoko Fujiwara of Japan wrote, “For me the most valuable part of the seminar was the community of women changemakers that I spent time with for two weeks and with whom I shared amazing experiences. While we all come from the Asia Pacific region, the region and its people are so diverse. I did not expect to learn about issues like maternity leave in Saipan or social entrepreneurship in Samoa.” Radha Durbha of India also wrote, “The greatest learning came from my fellow participants. I could see the similarities in our struggle to overcome biases and took away so much from their experiences.” New Zealander Olie Body shared this sentiment, “I deeply appreciate the lifelong friendships and networks I’ve made with the other women and the opportunities to share our struggles of being women in a globally patriarchal system.”

The 2019 Changing Faces women were:

  • Olie BODY, Managing Director & Founder, Wa Collective, Wellington, New Zealand
  • Keiko CHIDA, Executive Director & Co-Founder, End-of-Life Care Association of Japan, Tokyo, Japan
  • Tippi COGEN, Executive Director & Founder, Thrive Global of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Radha Mohan DURBHA, Director & Co-Founder, Kereses Consulting India Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore, India
  • Fiona EY, Partner, Clarke Ey Koria Lawyers and Chair, Apia International Schools, Apia, Samoa
  • Shihoko FUJIWARA, Founder, Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims, Tokyo, Japan
  • Drolma GADOU, Business Capacity Improvement Manager, SMD, Creative Associates Int’l, Chengdu, China
  • Krista GOON, Co-owner, Redbox Studio, Penang, Malaysia
  • Jaruza JAYACHANDRAN, CEO & Co-founder, ezBooking, Jaffna, Sri Lanka
  • Maricar A. JARUDA, Production Manager, Vjandep Bakeshop, Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
  • Taua Janet KOSE, Nofotane Woman Star Earner, Samoa Victim Support Group, Apia, Samoa
  • Emma NEWLAND, Founder, Lalai and Sprout, Suva, Fiji
  • Ha Thu NGUYEN, CEO & Co-founder, SLK Company Ltd., Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Norhani PACASUM, CEO, Ziya Inc., Manila, Philippines
  • Christina SABLAN, Representative, 21st Northern Marianas Legislature, Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
  • Adi Mariana WAQA, Founder, Vunilagi Book Club, Suva, Fiji

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.

For information on the #galswithLEI 2019 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

Partnerships with Sacred Hearts Academy and the Center for Tomorrow's Leaders 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. 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.


Insights for Resiliency Webinar Series

Insights for Resiliency was a webinar series launched by Blue Startups in Hawaii, in which alumni and members of Blue Startups’ global network shared how they were adapting in these unprecedented times. The East-West Center is pleased to have partnered with Blue Startups and to have extended this opportunity to our network of female business and social entrepreneurs.

The Covid Pivot: Founder Stories of Adaptation and Innovation

Monday, August 3 | 1:00 – 2:00pm, Hawaii

Hear from two entrepreneurs who have been able to adapt their online childcare goods and services businesses to support their communities and serve their customers’ amidst COVID-19, and in the process, have found new consumers and enabled a more resilient future for their business. Ifrah Khan is the founder of Usit. As COVID hit, she quickly pivoted her startup from an on demand college-student powered babysitting app to virtual summer camps and after school clubs for kids. Ifrah was named one of Atlanta Inno’s 25 under 25 entrepreneurs in 2018 and has a passion for how technology can help create new communities and opportunities in dual sided marketplaces. She grew up in Tampa, Florida and currently lives in Atlanta, where she started Usit. Zhafira Loebis, co-founder and CEO of Babyloania in Indonesia, launched a free toy rental initiative to uplift and support healthcare workers in Jakarta and the surrounding cities. Originally launched as a means of connecting and helping her community, it also led to unexpected revenue generation and numerous offers to collaborate with other businesses and nonprofits. Ifrah and Zhafira will discuss their response to the uncertainty and their communities' immediate and future needs and how they pivoted their business strategies.


  • Chenoa FARNSWORTH, Managing Director, Blue Startups, Hawaii, USA @BlueStartups

Panelists: (listed in speaking order)

  • Ifrah KHAN, CEO and Founder, Usit, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
  • Zhafira LOEBIS, CEO and Co-founder,, Jakarta, Indonesia @babyloania


Contact Information
Sara Lam
Acting Changing Faces Seminar Coordinator
East-West Center
1601 East-West Road
Honolulu, HI 96848 USA
Phone: 1-808-944-7727