2023 Wāhine of Hawai‘i

(Sponsored) HONOLULU Magazine celebrates some of Hawai‘i’s inspiring, powerhouse trailblazers making positive changes in the community and moving Honolulu forward.


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Julie Smolinski

Julie Smolinski

Hawaiian Electric Industries’ Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Sustainability Julie Smolinski. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino.



To find success, change is more than inevitable: It’s necessary. And Julie Smolinski, Hawaiian Electric Industries’ new Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Sustainability, has never been afraid to switch it up. After two years practicing law in California Smolinski moved to Hawaii in 2009, working for a firm in Honolulu before joining HEI’s General Counsel department in 2011. “Then, I found myself becoming more and more interested in the business aspect,” she says. “So, while I was working, I started taking night classes at UH.” Two years and an MBA degree later, she made a career shift to focus on HEI’s relations with investors. In 2020, she became HEI’s VP of Investor Relations and Corporate Sustainability.


A few years ago, Smolinski noticed a change in the way investors were looking at companies. Questions about things like carbon emissions goals, employee diversity, customer satisfaction—things that weren’t directly financial but significantly contributed to a company’s long-term sustainability—were becoming more common. “While our companies have long focused on this, investors were just starting to realize how much a company’s longevity depends on the strength of the community,” she says. “And they wanted to support ones that were thinking of the bigger picture.”


Hawai‘i has been a leader in sustainability for decades, with HEI one of the key local companies at the forefront. So, when socially conscious investors started to speak up, HEI was swift to respond. Smolinski spearheaded HEI’s ESG reporting and corporate sustainability initiatives, gathering pages of real, transparent data for investors, local communities and customers.


These reports have become foundational for HEI as it seeks to find long-term solutions to Hawai‘i’s broader sustainability problem. For Smolinski, HEI and its family of companies—Hawaiian Electric, American Savings Bank and Pacific Current—a better Hawai‘i means one that is striving economically, environmentally, culturally and socially. HEI understands that things like climate change, cost of living and affordable housing have no easy fixes, but Smolinski notes “Hawai‘i has shown that as a state we can be a leader in tackling tough challenges.”


Ultimately, the goal is to build Hawai‘i to be a place where there are enough resources for everyone to survive and thrive—something Smolinski acknowledges that HEI can’t do alone. “It will take collaboration and lots of small – and big – steps. But as a company we know that working with others we can make a difference.”



Liann Ebusugawa 

Liann Ebusugawa

Assistant General Counsel and Assistant Corporate Secretary and Vice President of the HEI Charitable Foundation, Liann Ebusugawa. Photo by: Aaron K. Yoshino.



Local girl. Lawyer. Civil rights advocate. Charitable spirit. Liann Ebesugawa is a woman who wears many hats, but they all align with the same purpose. “I started off being interested in criminal law, but I have a soft heart,” she laughs. “I’m not that tough. Criminal cases were hard on me.” She moved to business law and became involved with many different nonprofit organizations. It was on this new path that she found her passion and skillset lie in social justice and civil rights. “I feel my purpose on Earth is to be of service,” she says. It’s a mantra that has been, and continues to be, a guiding force through her life.


In 2017, she joined Hawaiian Electric Industries as Assistant General Counsel and Assistant Corporate Secretary. These roles focus on governance, which are critical in ensuring HEI and its subsidiaries are growing in a direction that best serves shareholders, customers and the community.


Today, she has the added role of Vice President of the HEI Charitable Foundation, which has given more than $25 million to support nonprofits since 2010. In 2020, the foundation launched the grassroots movement Project Footprint, which empowers the community to help build a better Hawai‘i through small, sustainable choices. “I love that I’m able to bring my whole self to my job,” says Ebesugawa. “Both as a lawyer and through the foundation.” Outside of work, she lives her calling through community work, whether volunteering as chair of the Hawai‘i Civil Rights Commission or as a long time director of the Japanese American Citizens League Honolulu Chapter, an organization committed to ensuring justice and equity for all.”


Ebesugawa believes that everyone has an underlying purpose, and if you hold on to that, opportunities will find you. After working for many companies throughout her career, she’s thankful to be with one that has the right ethos, that’s rooted in a desire to help. “I truly believe that you can have everything you want,” she says, speaking from experience. “You can have a fulfilling career that integrates all aspects of your life.”



Ixchel López 


Ixchel Lopez

La Pietra – Hawai‘i School for Girls teacher, Ixchel López. Photo by: Aaron K. Yoshino




Before she joined La Pietra, Ixchel López spent more than 10 years honing her craft in the performing arts. Beyond her career as a professional actor working both locally and on the mainland, she has a background as a traveling teaching artist, visiting different schools, academies and conservatories throughout the years, and currently writes and produces for the Hawai‘i Comedy Festival and Improv Hawai‘i Paper Sketch Comedy Shows.


Now, as a newcomer teaching her first year at the all-girls school, López is using her craft to nurture young women to lead a life of purpose. “I’m passionate about teaching life skills through stage skills,” says López, who helps her students learn empathy, build confidence and discover their voices through theater, musical theater and Page to Stage classes. Off the stage, she connects with students as an adviser for the student council and drama club. She says she wanted to teach at a school where she could make a difference with each of her students. So, to her, a small school like La Pietra was the perfect choice. “I feel like I know every single one of my students well,” she says. “That’s something I’ve never experienced with typical class sizes.”



Grace Kane

Grace Kane

La Pietra – Hawai‘i School for Girls student, Grace Kane. Photo by: Aaron K. Yoshino




Grace Kane is the kind of well-rounded, driven student that any school would be proud of. Since joining La PIetra in sixth grade, she’s been a part of Science Olympiad, the Student Ambassador Program and National Honor Society. Now a senior, Kane serves as the student council president, chess club leader and co-captain of the varsity volleyball team. For her, La Pietra has been a strong guiding force both in and out of the classroom. “I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in eighth grade. La Pietra helped me adapt to my condition through sports,” says Kane, who has been on the volleyball and basketball teams since she was a freshman. This year, under her leadership, the varsity volleyball team went on to win the ILH Div. III championship, with Kane earning the title of ILH Div. III Girls’ Volleyball Player of the Year.


Guiding young women to lead a life of purpose is what La Pietra’s all about. There, students are encouraged to learn not just about the world around them, but about themselves as well. “I’ve had the opportunity to explore many passions and interests,” says Kane, who has found her purpose as a future educator, supporting young minds just as she was supported during her years there. “I hope to pay it forward, to teach low-income families and make a difference.”



Dr. Celia Dominguez 

Dr Celia Dominguez

Co-Director of Pacific In Vitro Fertilization, Institute, Dr. Celia Dominguez. Photo by: Aaron K. Yoshino.




Dr. Celia E Dominguez (Chely) was born in Paraguay and moved to the United States when she was 5 years old. After obtaining her Medical Degree at George Washington University and her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, Dr. Dominguez completed a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of California in San Diego in 1993 and subsequently joined the faculty. While at UCSD she received extensive laparoendoscopic training specializing in endometriosis.


In 1994, Dr. Dominguez accepted a position at the University of New Mexico, where she was involved in multiple clinical and basic science research and was involved in establishing a program for the teaching of laparoendoscopic and hysteroscopic surgery. She was part of a multidisciplinary team working with gender reassignment surgery and vaginal and uterine reconstructive surgery. She helped establish the GYN/OB ultrasound program and was involved in several multicenter hormone replacement trials.


In April of 2000, Dr. Dominguez joined the faculty at Emory University in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. She was recruited primarily to help teach laparoendoscopic surgery. She continued research in the field of endometriosis and worked with the department of Epidemiology in the field of endocrine disruptors.


She was recruited to Hawaii and came in June of 2008. She was the Director of the Hawaii Reproductive Center and in 2011 joined the Pacific In Vitro Fertilization team where she is presently Co-Director. Dr. Dominguez is Board certified in both OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinology.


Dr. Ruth Fletcher  

Dr Ruth Fletcher

President of St. Andrew’s Schools, Dr. Ruth Fletcher. Photo by: Aaron K. Yoshino.




With an education career spanning nearly 30 years, Dr. Ruth Fletcher has distinguished herself as a high-achieving contributor to the community. The current Head of School and President of St. Andrew’s Schools, she has had a robust career as a scientist, educator and administrator. Her vision for St. Andrew’s ensures that a pipeline of community leaders, particularly women, never runs dry. She fosters an academic environment that prioritizes independent thinking and instills the value of a purpose-driven life, empowering students to make a difference in their communities.


Known as a progressive innovator able to adapt to the evolving demands of education, Dr. Fletcher empowers her students and advocates tirelessly for their advancement. By working closely with downtown businesses, she has strengthened Priory in the City, the school’s internship, networking and mentoring programming that creates real-life workplace opportunities for girls preparing to start college. Under her guidance, the school has invested in STEM resources, ensuring that graduates are prepared to compete at the highest levels of innovation and commerce.


As the State of Hawaii seeks to diversify its economy, fight climate change and keep its top talent, the stakes could not be higher. Dr. Fletcher sees education as a crucial part of the solution to building a future-ready sustainable economy—one not fully dependent on tourism and that embraces innovation, critical thinking and creative problem solving. This goal is an integral part of St. Andrew’s Schools’ vision to empower the next generation of leaders, fearless individuals who are driven to create meaningful change for a better future.