Women’s Equality Day and the Women Who Inspire Us

August 26, 2020
By iQ Staff
Headshots of Meredith Ching, Ann Harakawa, Feather Hickox, Marisa Lavine, and Cynthia Sugiyama.

Women’s Equality Day on August 26 commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, but also calls attention to the continuing efforts of women to achieve full equality. As a woman- and minority-owned business, iQ 360 recognizes the importance of women in leadership roles and the hardships that they overcame to get there.

In honor of Women’s Equality Day, we spoke with woman leaders in our industry about the women in their lives who inspired and supported them along their careers.



Meredith Ching

Executive VP of External Affairs, Alexander & Baldwin

"I have had many women who have inspired me over the years—most older than me, most of whom I looked “up” to. So, I find myself in new territory as my current source of inspiration is my daughter.

This COVID period has given me a special opportunity to interact with her as an adult—out of college, working her first job, living on the mainland. She has grown so much—mostly in her perspective and thought processes.

She inspires me with her hunger to understand issues and people, from both the intimate and the large-scale perspective. She is much more intellectually curious than I, the engineer, am in my natural state. I look for right answers, the answers—she looks for all the answers, to form her own answer.

She inspires me to keep learning, to keep changing—even when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable. She inspires me to find answers in a different way. It’s not easy for an old dog to learn new tricks. She is a mom whisperer—in a good way."



Ann Harakawa

Principal, Two Twelve

“Hawaii < — > NYC ~ Two Resilient, Influential, Strong Women: Nalani Kanaka’ole (kumu; Halau O Kekuhi) + Rose DeStefano (Systems Change Leader, Sr. Director; Collective Impact Childrenʻs Aid, NYC). Their lives embody a dedication and commitment that transcends words in our English language vocabulary. Nalani elevates Hawaiian intelligence through cultural education founded on the teachings and traditional practices of her ancestors. Rose tirelessly works to provide a voice for NYC communities that are underrepresented, under served, and often times misunderstood. Our world is an infinitely better place because of them.”

Photo credit: Nani Welch Keliihoomalu



Feather Hickox

VP of Marketing, Duetto

“When asked this question, I thought immediately of Marta Benson, who I had the incredibly good fortune to work for early in my career, in the early days of the Restoration Hardware e-commerce division. As a leader, she is human, direct (and funny), and shapes a culture where people want to, and are empowered to, do their best work. Marta also set a formative example for me, and many other women, as a working mom who showed how it could look to embrace parenthood AND build a career. And lastly, Marta is one of the few people I know who truly “walk the walk” on ethical and societal issues that impact the community and the world.”



Marisa Lavine

Senior Director of Public Relations, Kaiser Permanente

“This won’t be a surprise to those who know me well, but the woman who has inspired me the most is my mom, Judy Kessel. When I was young, my mom left her corporate job to start a video production company that grew into a health care marketing and advertising agency. While doing this, she demonstrated that juggling a career and a family is not always easy, but you can make it work in your own way. As a wife and mother, I constantly juggle all aspects of life. In those moments when I’m struggling to find balance, I know that my mom will not only understand, but she will always offer words of wisdom and inspiration that all of us need to hear.”



Cynthia Sugiyama

SVP of Corporate Communications, Wells Fargo

“My mother. I think of everything my mother had to go through as a young woman immigrating to the U.S. from Taiwan by herself. So many sacrifices made, challenges overcome, and lessons in survival and strength passed on. One of the lessons she taught me and my siblings: Learn to see the opportunity in, not the impossibility of, the challenges that come your way.”