LeaderLuncheon profile: Betty White

39th Annual LeaderLuncheon | Tuesday, June 14, 2016 | 12-1:30PM | Sheraton Waikiki

Betty White headshot

Betty White has been Head of School for Sacred Hearts Academy since 1990. She began her career as a history teacher in 1971 and now leads Hawaii's largest all-girls school. She has mentored more than 5,000 girls, and under her leadership Sacred Hearts has maintained its commitment to an all-girls education despite economic pressures. Betty is the first representative from Hawai'i to serve as a trustee on the National Coalition of Girls' Schools, and she also serves on the board of the Hawaii Association of Independent Schools.

Q & A with Betty White

Q: What is your definition of a leader?

A leader is one who can get the job done, responsibilities accomplished, and mission realized through the help and efforts of other people.

Q: Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? What did they teach you? 

My husband has always inspired and encouraged me to have a career that demanded a certain degree of leadership-even while raising three children. Both our mothers were full time homemakers, but he always helped me by picking  up the slack at home and eating a lot of carry out dinners so I could give more energy, time and talent to my job. 

I am also inspired by high achieving women in our community who have been successful, such as Judge Linda Luke of Hawaii’s Court System and Dr. Helen Turner who is Dean of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Chaminade University. They taught me the value of hard work and focus.   

I am also inspired by the mother who is working two jobs to pay tuition for  her young daughter or the 65 year old grandmother who is rearing her granddaughters because their parents, for one reason or another, are unable to provide a stable home environment for their them.  The latter two teach me that we often do not know what we can do until we have to do it.

Q: What motivates you to be a leader in your community? 

I want to make the lives of girls and women better by helping them realize their potential. My goal is to make young women financially self-sufficient. Many of them will be single mothers by the time they are 30 years old; others may have children and decide not to marry.  

Regardless of the situation, they must be able to care for themselves and their children financially. I want to live in a time when our girls and women take advantage of opportunities to more enthusiastically investigate cures for disease, search out space exploration, solve energy and environmental issues, help feed the hungry and house the homeless-all needed to build a better world.

Q: What was your greatest obstacle in your career and how did you overcome it?

Often, the challenge is educating girls for a career that they or I cannot visualize because it has not yet been developed since the economy is changing so quickly. They will be buying and selling from world markets, working for international companies not yet familiar to them.  Managing employees from other cultures and countries whom we do not yet know, and collaborating with people all over the world in joint ventures that have not yet been designed is challenging.

These obstacles are not easy to overcome, but I try to teach girls to develop skills,  courage and confidence to look to this unknown landscape with wonder and enthusiasm.

Q: What advice would you give to young women and girls who want to become leaders? 

Surround yourself with strong and competent people. Develop a skill set that integrates the mind and the heart. Take pride in a career that is grueling, but exciting and gratifying. Don't accept the status quo--always focus on changing lives for the better.  

Don't focus on disappointments-acknowledge them, accept them, lay them down and move on. Stay humble and untouched by your success. Finally, the world is often not perfect or fair or kind, but shape its goodness with the strength of your talents, energy and convictions. (And, train your body not to need excessive hours of sleep!)

LeaderLuncheon honors women for the contributions they have made to their professions and in their community.  Join us in supporting Hawaii’s commitment to the advancement of women leaders by attending the 2016 LeaderLuncheon.  To purchase tickets or for more information, call 695-2620 or click on the button below.