Faces of Diversity: Women's History Month

Lina Tomoyasu, transportation assistant for Japan Engineer District, shares her thoughts on Women's History Month.
Lina Tomoyasu, transportation assistant for Japan Engineer District, shares her thoughts on Women's History Month.

Faces of Diversity: Women's History Month

by Charlie Maib
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Japan District

As we come into the 35th anniversary of Women’s History Month, I can think of so many prominent and notable women that have made great contributions in America – the late Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Supreme Court Justice, Sally Ride - the first woman in space, and Michelle Obama – First Lady of the United States. These amazing women along with so many others have worked publicly to promote women’s rights, equity in employment and pay, and overall equality for all women in America.

It also made me think about the women in my own life and my own history that have made a positive impact in my life – most notably, my grandmother and mother.

My grandmother was the daughter of a Japanese picture bride. She was born and grew up in a small town on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. She worked on a pineapple plantation during her youth and built her own business as a pikake (jasmine) farmer after moving to Oahu. In addition to being farmer and mother of five, she and my grandfather would clean businesses after hours for extra money so she could send her kids to college. Her perseverance and quiet strength showed me that you can make your dreams happen if you want them bad enough and work hard enough. Her kindness, empathy, and generosity showed me that no one is better than anyone else and we should always try our best to help when we can. Most of all, I admired her tenacity and fearlessness in standing up for herself, her family, and her fair share in the floral industry. She was always encouraging, telling me never to give up on my dreams to never let anyone tell me I’m not good enough.

Her daughter, my mother, didn’t graduate from college. She doesn’t hold a professional certification or degree, but as a teenager she built herself up to become the youngest female manager at her place of employment. Eventually she became an entrepreneur joining the growing ranks of female & minority owned small businesses in Hawaii. When it came to business, she was one tough cookie. She fought for her place “at the table” in a heavily male-dominated industry and would not put up with being put down just because she was a woman. It was hard at times, and she was always honest about her struggles, but she showed me that anything is possible if I put my mind to it. She told me the importance of knowing your self-worth, not letting people walk all over you, and that being the loudest doesn’t mean you’re the most powerful person in the room.

These two remarkable women may not have achieved national notoriety or fame, but they contributed to making me who I am to today. Not only did they break through barriers, but they also showed me the power women have to make a difference in the lives of everyone around them. This month, I celebrate them, my female coworkers, and my daughters – for they will be the next generation of phenomenal women.

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