2019 LeaderLuncheon Honoree Profile: Kathryn Matayoshi

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The 42nd Annual LeaderLuncheon, YWCA Oahu’s biggest fundraiser of the year, is happening on May 15, 2019 at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel, 12 noon-1:30 p.m. We’re looking forward to celebrating the accomplishments of exceptional women leaders and sharing our mission of “Eliminating Racism, Empowering Women” with our guests.

In the weeks leading up to the event, we’ll introduce you to the 2019 LeaderLuncheon honorees. YWCA O‘ahu selected four amazing women who will be highlighted for their contributions in their fields of work and in their communities. Get to know our second 2019 LeaderLuncheon honoree below!

Q&A with Kathryn Matayoshi

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Senior Vice President,
Government Programs &
Account Relationships,

What types of qualities make a good leader? 

For me, a good leader is someone who has a sense of purpose and integrity, a person who has the courage to do the right thing even when it’s challenging, and someone who’s able to communicate with empathy. There will always be people who don’t agree. But what’s important is understanding their perspective and knowing how and when to speak up and make the case for your beliefs without alienating others. Most of all, I think a good leader is someone who believes in elevating others above self.

What has helped you become a more effective leader?

I’ve been fortunate to have had different jobs in a variety of organizations. That’s allowed me to get to know people from across Hawai‘i, learn from them, and use those teachings in the work I believe in. My experiences have helped me to maintain a level of curiosity, a willingness to explore new ideas, and understand the value of taking risks and making mistakes. There’s always something to learn when you make mistakes — and those learning experiences have impacted me. 

Name a woman leader who inspires you and why?

My mom was a wonderful role model. She was always working, pushing boundaries, and willing to learn new things. She loved teaching others and was so giving of herself. Yet she always found a way to get things done. She took the first college courses to the Kulani Correctional Facility. At UH Hilo, she led the continuing education program. And after she retired the first time, was the head of volunteer services for Governor Cayetano and started the state volunteer services office. In the early 1960s, she was inspired by President Kennedy to head the Hilo office of Peace Corps training for South East Asia. Being courageous was one of her greatest lessons to me. She was never afraid to speak her mind — not that she was ever disrespectful — but she would speak up to UH presidents and state governors whenever it was something she believed in.


What was your dream job growing up?

I always knew that I wanted to be an attorney. In high school, many of us were in the YMCA Youth Legislature. I was the student senate president and Elisa Yadao was speaker of the house. The thing about law that appealed to me was the ability to influence policies and make a difference for people.


What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

One of my early jobs was working as a summer law clerk for Senior Family Court Judge Betty Vitousek, who started the family courts here in Hawai‘i. She was a truly remarkable woman and I was so fortunate to work for her. I remember a case when an attorney was such a jerk to her. We were all upset, and she was, too. She had known the attorney since he was a baby. We all wanted her to rule against him, but she turned it around and asked us, “Is that the right decision?” Working for her, I learned how important it is to not let negative emotions get in the way of doing what’s right. No matter how you feel about someone, you can’t let those who attack you and the emotions of being defensive get in the way of a good and right decision.


What can you advise others to do to help each other or help the next generation of women leaders?

Take the time to share your experiences, to share the problems that you face, the barriers that you’ve met, even ones that you couldn’t overcome. Sharing your time and yourself and your experiences is so valuable, even if it’s just for a minute.

Read Kathryn Matayoshi’s full bio here.

RSVP for the 42nd Annual LeaderLuncheon today! Click here.