Mazie Hirono, U.S. Senator, Hawaii
Mazie Hirono, U.S. Senator from Hawaii, shares her story of immigrating to America with her single mother from Japan, learning English, and discovering her knack for politics, first as a campaign manager and eventually as the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate.
Diana Trujillo, Aerospace Engineer
Fei-Fei Li, Professor at Stanford University & Chief Technologist at Google Cloud
Mazie Hirono, U.S. Senator, Hawaii
Arianna Huffington, Founder of HuffPost & CEO of Thrive Global
- I am the person that came from another country trying to figure out a better life in a different place, and then took that little seed and expanded it to taking the entire human species into the next level of exploration.
I grew up in Colombia, in Cali. I lived there until I was 17. Growing up, it was a responsibility of the woman to make sure that my dad, my uncle, my grandfather were happy when they would come home, food was on the table, everything was taken care of. My mom was actually the smart one. She was in med school when she met my dad. And then she got pregnant with me and she dropped out. My parents got divorced when I turned 12. After that happened, my mom had nothing. No money. We didn't even have food. And we boil an egg, and then we cut it in half. And that was our lunch that day. I remember just laying down on the grass and looking at the sky and thinking something has to be out there that is better than this, some other species that treats themselves better or values people better.
I literally thought, what's the hardest thing a human being can do? If I could be out there as an astronaut and represent humanity, there was no more bigger honor than that. And when you, Dad, see my life, you're going to realize that we can bring-- we women bring something to the table.
I was the first immigrant Hispanic woman on the program. l got to meet astronauts. I got to meet CEOs of companies. None of them looked like me. And among all of the people that talked to us, there was only one woman. But as I was talking to them, l realized we had a lot of things in common, the way that they thought about the universe and exploration, the way that they thought about humanity. I found my people is kind of what I felt.
Once you come out of the launch vehicle, telecom takes over. Can you hear me, right, is the question that you're wondering, can you hear the Rover? A small job with a lot of impact. Multiple times when we did multiple hours and weeks of testing, it wasn't going smooth enough, and you're wondering, I hope this is working. The fact that we got the first picture, I could not believe we had done it. This is Mars. This is Mars. I am one of the first 30 people in the world to see these pictures of Mars.
The fact that we actually found out that Mars was, at some point, habitable, that leads to the next question: Can we actually find some evidence that there was, at some point, life on Mars? We're going to take a sample with Mars 2020 and put it on a tube to be ready to be returned back to Earth. All of those missions are also thinking about human exploration, all the little pieces that at least we need to figure out for us to even conceive the idea of sending a human. As a little girl, I saw the women in my family give up a lot It gave me the tenacity that I needed to say, I'm not going to give up on my dream. I want to be out there looking back in, showing my family that women have value. That women matter.
FEI-FEI LI: My role is to be the thought leader of AI and machine learning. One of the most important things for me is not only to advance AI, but also to democratize AI.
My childhood was spent in the southwest of China in villages at the outskirts of the city called Chengdu. So it's a very cloudy city. You don't see starry nights too often, which actually made me really long for those few nights that have clear sky. So I always had that very early sense of wonder of what nature is, who we are. Then as I entered school, just the sheer beauty of math and science just always attracted me.
The transition from China to America was quite a shocker. Typical immigrant story that you have to start from ground zero. And I pretty much learned English from scratch here. One big difference of American school is the books are so much heavier. I had to carry all these, you know, volumetric dictionaries to survive my day.
There was one thing about Princeton that was absolutely my dream is I've always been the nerdy kid. So you know, I would never be so popular because I'm not part of any sports teams. But that intense intellectual environment-- I was like a fish in the water, suddenly.
Visual intelligence is the primary sensory system for humans to use to survive, to work, to communicate. Solving the core fundamental problems of visual intelligence is solving intelligence. If we want to ever make robots do tasks for us or with us, robots need to recognize objects.
Most people were skeptical. So we had pretty scathing reviews for grants to support this project. I didn't spend too much time thinking, oh, my god, these people don't like it. Should I do it or not? Because I know in my mind this will change how we think about machine learning. It was staggering for a while. We ended up employing tens of thousands of online workers across more than 150 countries in the world to help us assemble this data set.
The field of AI, as well as the greater field of STEM, is massively lacking diversity. We need to be mindful that human values define machine values. If our training data misses a big population of our world, that would have grave consequences.
When we have a diverse group of technologists, it's more likely that the technology will reflect our collective values. How do we encourage the future generation of technologists? If we communicate the humanistic value and how it will make our world better, we can hope to encourage more diverse groups of students to feel passionate about AI, then become tomorrow's technology leaders.
- A little bit colorful sort of woman in an iconic US based company that's gone global, that's always been run by white males, and you've got the beginnings of a juicy story.
- I grew up in Madras, in the south of India, in a very rigid, strict upbringing, and as a kid, I was a tomboy, I was a girl when I needed to be, I was a student, I was a daughter, I was everything. One of the most complex personalities.
- It's a unacceptable age to graduate from business school. People don't even finish undergraduate before they're 21 or 22, and so, even though I worked in India for two years, I found that I didn't have a lot of the expertise, the deep knowledge, the business acumen, and I just loved looking at everything end-to-end, and looking at the interdependents of every discipline
- So the letter comes that I've gotten into the Yale School of Management. I go to my parents and say, "Can I go?" and they go, "Absolutely not." My mom says, "I'm going to get you married off." I said, "What do you mean, married off?" She said, "Yeah. "You're now 22 years old. "High time to get married. "No single woman's going to go off "alone to the United States." My dad says, "We're not going to discriminate "between the boys and the girls in the family. "She should have an equal chance "in doing whatever she wants."
- The intellect is one part, but there's this time, there's a fit, there's a culture issue, I mean, so many things, you know, I had to learn. The time comes to interview for summer jobs, and I only had saris, or jeans, both of which were quite unacceptable. I had 50 bucks saved, so I went to the local Kmart and got a bright blue polyester pantsuit. Not the best clothes for an interview, but that's all I could afford. I was very proud of it. I ran out of money to buy shoes, so I had these big orange snow boots. The words of my mother kept coming back. She said, "Always buy clothes two sizes "bigger because you'll grow into it." I forgot that I'd already fully grown. I walk into the interview hall, and all the other students are sort of laughing at me, and I can feel it. I hold my head up high, conduct the interview, but herein lies the irony. Maybe 25 students interviewed. They hired two. I was one of them. In spite of the lousy outfit.
- I think I've given seven days a week, 20 hours a day, kind of workload to Pepsi Co. Being a parent and doing well in both. It's just, there's not enough hours in the day. Your biological clock and your career clock are in conflict with each other. You have to give up something. So what do you do? But you know what? At the end of the day, I look at my kids and I go, "Everything was worth it."
- We have, in the United States, a meritocracy, which we should never lose. I've always focused on doing a damn good job, and just hoping the rest of it takes care of itself. I got a call from the CEO then,, and he said, "The board is going to, "in all likelihood, vote you in as CEO." And I was like, "Oh my god, I'm going to be CEO!" And that's a pretty big shock.
- When you actually ascend to the top, it's a whole different ballgame, because you're it, and now, amplify that with the fact that you're foreign born, from an emerging market, so diversity itself is taking on a richer meaning, but clearly, gender diversity has to be embraced as the only way for a company to be successful. I don't think we have a choice.
SHEILA LIRIO MARCELO: Having a child in college was tough. But in comparison to the years when my father had a heart attack, those were probably the most stressful years of my life. That's what gets me through any difficult day. People always say, you look kind of zen, and I'm like, I've been through a lot.
I was born and raised in the Philippines. And I have a very nurturing father, in fact, teddy bear dad. And my mom was the tiger mom, pretty aggressive, pretty assertive.
My mom was always excited about starting new businesses, everything from mangoes to duck farms to rice mills to processing sugar, and always studying how to run businesses in an efficient way.
What was interesting growing up, I think, in an Asian family is that we had designated professions. I had a older brother that was supposed to be doctor, a sister that was supposed to be a dentist. I was supposed to be a lawyer. Even though my parents were entrepreneurs, there was just this expectation that being a professional was more acceptable.
There just weren't many undergrads getting pregnant. It felt a little odd to be on campus. At that point, I started becoming more insecure about the perception of being a young mom, and could I make it, the judgments around, was I ambitious enough. But I think those difficulties actually gave me even more confidence, realizing that perceptions isn't really what matters. It's sort of what's in here.
I had a mentor once say to me, are you in the pain business or the pleasure business? Because I was contemplating joining sort of a hot mobile entertainment company, and I realized I like helping people solve problems, difficult ones. And it's very gratifying to know that you're making a meaningful difference in people's lives.
Ryan was sort of four or five years old. We juggled quite a bit. And I didn't really have family in the area and my husband's parents were deceased. I begged my parents to come from the Philippines to take care of our little guy.
And within a few months, my father was walking up the stairs and fell backwards because he had gotten a heart attack. And that was really difficult. When you've got a child that you're worried about, whether they're being cared for well, and you've got a father at home struggling to just live, those are the kinds of things that are just true pain points for families, that I realized there's got to be a better solution.
I'm one of the few very first companies in the internet space that's female-founded that is funded. But it was a challenge trying to communicate to often male partners to invest in a business supporting predominantly women.
I was really surprised at our IPO closing dinner. And I had invited our children. And there was an open mic. And my 22-year-old grabbed the microphone. And he spoke up and he just said, I'm going to remember what you do every day for people in helping them in their lives. And here I am in front of bankers, my accountants, and lawyers. I just gushed. And I normally wouldn't.
I felt like my son understood the sacrifices I made, what I was doing in my life. And hopefully I've imparted in some way how he will respect the women in his life beyond me.
[MUSIC PLAYING] MAZIE HIRONO: I was born in Fukushima, Japan. And for all intents and purposes, I wouldn't be sitting here if my mother hadn't made a decision when I was young that she needed to get is away from an abusive husband. That was my father, and I never got to know him. She had tremendous courage at a time in Japan where women just didn't do this sort of thing.
Just before I was eight years old, we literally got on a boat-- a ship-- and sailed to this place called Hawaii. I remember my grandmother coming to Yokohama Harbor, and how much I cried. I cried every day for days on end on this ship because I missed her so much.
And I had no idea what to expect when we landed. We had literally one suitcase.
When I came here, I spoke no English, and I was totally discouraged from speaking any Japanese. In those days, we were not encouraged to retain our language or particularly our culture.
I always felt different. I felt much more mature than a lot of kids my age, because I had a mother who was struggling to support all of us.
The expectations for women, when I was going to high school, was that politics was not on the agenda. But during the, you know, time that I was in college, I began to protest the Vietnam War. And that's the first time that I questioned what my country was doing and opened my eyes to politics as a way to make social changes.
It took me 10 years of running other people's campaigns, getting a law degree, before I thought, well, I think I should be a candidate. That's very much in line with the experience of a lot of women, particularly women of my generation. It took us a while to decide that we had something to bring to the table.
And I became the first female, Democratic nominee for governor in Hawaii. My Republican opponent was also a woman, and it's only the second time in the history of our country that the nominees both happened to be women.
I congratulate Linda Lingle. Linda, I know that you're going to do your very best for the people of this state.
It was my first loss, but it was a big one. We were outspent by a lot.
I know how disappointed you are.
I remember that night, I said, I think I have one big race left in me. And I tell people what I learned from that race and that loss was how to win.
I really had to think about, do I want to stay in this relatively safe seat, or do I want to go into the unknown? And of course, I picked the unknown, because that's what I do. [CHUCKLES]
I was very focused on what I needed to do, but I take nothing for granted. And so up to the last day, I'm thinking, OK, let's just win this thing. I never thought that I had it in the bag. I never think that way.
REPORTER: Hawaii elected its first female US senator, Mazie Hirono. She's also the first Asian-American woman to be in the Senate. Hirono won in a landslide victory.
MAZIE HIRONO: At my election night gathering for this Senate race, my mom had had this looked in her face. And I said, Mom, you're thinking about what it was like when you came here many years ago and our struggles. So we both had tears in our eyes.
There's nothing I could do in my life that would be as hard as what she did, bringing us to this country. My mom showed me through her example that one person can make a difference.