You don’t have to be a caped crusader to be a superhero. In this feature, we interview 4 women about the work they do across a range of professions. The work is varied but they all have one thing in common- a spirit empowered to do good and help others. We hope their words inspire you to find your own super powers and challenge you to make a difference. Watch out, their energy is contagious!
“I’m energized by inspirational and resilient people. I just relentlessly pursue being connected to global change makers.”BESS HEPWORTH
Bess’ staggering dedication to the LGBT community includes working as Partnership and Community Manager APAC for Out Leadership and a role as Technical Advisor for the UNDP’s Being LTBTI in Asia program. To top it off, Bess is now becoming an ‘appreneur’, developing an app that empowers the global LGBTIQ community and its allies to make more informed travel choices.
Bess, who has two small children with her wife Kirsty, is also an active member of Rainbow Families. She is always on hand to give advice about becoming an LGBTIQ parent in Hong Kong.
Why do you do what you do?
Fundamentally I believe that we should leave the world a better place than how we found it. As a gay person seeing so much inequality in the world, I don’t want to sit idly by and not try to do all I can to help create change.
What empowers you?
I feel extremely humbled and privileged to be connected to the global change makers in the LGBTIQ community and I’m empowered by the courage and bravery of activists all around the world. I love social media and how it connects our community and tells powerful stories. I see Twitter as a giant fishing net. As soon as I read someone’s name in an article, I’m googling them and I’m trying to contact them because I’m just so excited about having them be a part of our conversation. Prince Manvendra [Singh Gohil] the first openly gay Indian prince is a great example. I reached out to him on Facebook and we became connected which lead to him accepting speaking at the Out Leadership Asia Summit.
What is your superpower?
The company of others. I’m energized by inspirational and resilient people. I just relentlessly pursue being connected to global change makers.
Do you seen an imbalance in representation of lesbian women in Diversity & Inclusion groups?
Absolutely. Just as in any other population group, women’s voices come second. There are some global initiatives for LGBTI women coming forward such as Lesbians who Tech, who co-hosted the first ever White House LGBT Innovation Summit. But there needs to be more initiatives for women, we need gay men to further their allyship within the community by creating spaces for women to be heard.
What would your message be to empower lesbian women in Hong Kong?
More women should support other women and be open and accessible to helping them. I’ve benefited from women who I’ve reached out to and have helped me. Women in senior positions need to remove the pedestal and take other women on their journey with them.
SEE WHAT BESS IS UP TO NEXT ON TWITTER @BONZAPIE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUTLEADERSHIP AND THEIR OUTWOMEN PROGRAM AT OUTLEADERSHIP.COM
“I find my contemporaries and my colleagues are communally looking to support and empower one another to progress.”JOANNA BOWERS
Joanna Bowers is the director, writer and producer of The Helper, a documentary that brings to light the sacrifices made by the women of Hong Kong’s migrant domestic workers population, as they strive to escape poverty and create a better future for their families.
After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, Joanna and her team spent the last year shooting and editing the film which is now being submitted to international film festivals such as Sundance and Tribeca. Joanna’s daughter was born in December of last year, in the midst of the film’s production. As a working mother making an empowering movie about women, Joanna stands out as one of Hong Kong’s Wonder Women.
Why do you do what you do?
I think I’m incredibly lucky. I get to tell stories for a living which is something I’m very passionate about. I love the freedom that it gives me to pursue things that I find interesting and to tell stories that I think are important.
What empowers you?
Having a supportive boyfriend who believes in what I do! My helper also empowers me. By having someone that I trust and ultimately being able to have full-time domestic help enables me to focus on my career. It frees up more time in my life, which can be quite busy, splitting time between making films and raising our daughter.
What is your superpower?
What has been empowering about the process of making this film?
Having a platform for these women to tell their stories. The reaction from friends, colleagues and complete strangers and the overwhelming generosity and hard work offered. Knowing that there was an audience that wanted to see this has been very empowering.
What have you learned about yourself along this journey?
I’ve learned that it’s impossible to stay emotionally detached when making a film of this nature. You can’t help but start caring about your subject, particularly when they’re people that you spend so much time with and when you’re watching them go through such massive life events.
What message do you feel is being presented to women in Hong Kong?
I don’t love how women are portrayed in advertising in Hong Kong. Very frequently, they’re portrayed as being giggly, immature, and weak.
Is the film industry male-dominated?
Hell, yeah! I would have been making feature films years ago would there have been more women decision-makers in the industry. I’m fortunate to have made many friends and we have ascended through the ranks together. Earlier in my career, I found that women in senior positions felt they needed to defend their position rather than collaborating and helping new talent grow. Now I don’t think that’s the case; I find my contemporaries and my colleagues are communally looking to support and empower one another to progress.
What does this film do to empower the women in it?
The goal is to share the stories and many sacrifices made by the domestic worker population in Hong Kong in an attempt to humanize them in the eyes of many. It empowers them by giving them a platform to share their voices.
What does this film do to empower the women watching it?
Hopefully it gives them an increased understanding and empathy for the domestic helper in their life, thereby helping them understand who this person is and communicate better with them. Ideally it can create a better working relationship and environment in the home.
In fact, it’s very difficult to measure the impact that a film has, but our team has come up with a great way do that. We’re launching our impact campaign which is the website, ‘Thanks a Million’. After the movie, we’ll be asking viewers if they’ve been inspired by the film to go onto the website and publicly express their thanks for the domestic helper in their life.
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE HELPER, VISIT THEHELPERDOCUMENTARY.COM OR FOLLOW THE JOURNEY ON FACEBOOK (@THEHELPERDOCUMENTARY) AND INSTAGRAM (THE_HELPER_DOCUMENTARY). TO SHOW YOUR APPRECIATION FOR THE DOMESTIC WORKER IN YOUR LIFE, UPLOAD A SELFIE TOGETHER WITH THE HASHTAG #HELPIE.
“Don’t accept someone else’s definition of fitness. Dig deep, do your own research so you find something that works for you that you believe in.”JESSENIA & MARITSA
Jessenia and Maritsa are by definition a power couple, and not just because they power lift. About two years ago, they made a big move from Amish country in Pennsylvania for Jessenia to coach professionally in Hong Kong at Bikini Fit, Asia’s premier female-specific health and fitness community. Inspired by working in a successful business and the dream to do the same for themselves, they started SoFit Solutions, which stands out from the crowd for its focus on plant-based nutrition alongside fitness training.
Pairing Jessenia’s passion for fitness with Maritsa’s graphic design and culinary skills (seriously, check out their Instagram account) they’ve created a powerful tool to educate others on the whole-body benefits of living the vegan life.
Why do you do what you do?
We want to help people. There’s a lot of miseducation around health and nutrition. The food industry has caught on and often just makes things appear healthy. We want to share information we’ve learned and help people develop their own fact-based whole body understanding of health and wellness.
Do you feel like the fitness industry in Hong Kong is predominantly male-dominated?
Yes, it’s definitely male-dominated, but that’s not just in Hong Kong. It’s starting to change though. For example, Bikini Fit is predominantly female coaches and clients. Training with other women gives women strength and confidence. It shapes how women look at fitness and helps them accept that being fit doesn’t mean having a certain body type.
In a nutshell, what sets you apart?
We’re vegan rebels! A lot of people talk about veganism but don’t share real facts and think it’s just a food trend. Vegans have fought for years for representation in mainstream media to start talking about what eating meat does to our environment. There’s an interesting parallel between being vegan and being gay. You almost have to come out of the closet as a vegan, and at first people don’t know how to act or they think it’s a phase.
How do you want to empower other people?
Don’t accept someone else’s definition of fitness. Dig deep, do your own research so you find something that works for you that you believe in. It’s exciting because we’ve already impacted several people with their diets. Yeah, we converted our first (Check out Wild Mylk.)
What have you learned about yourselves along this journey?
We both have our strengths and weaknesses. As partners in business and in life, we’re actually opposites. But we’ve become more mindful of ourselves and emotions, we create positive habits together. How could we help other people if we’re a hot mess? We read as much as we can about emotional intelligence, it will change your life! If your mind’s not in it, or not right, you’re never going to get past barriers that hold you back. You have to create an empowered mindset, and that can be really hard in Hong Kong. So often we see people that really need a hug!