If I could bottle up everything that’s exciting and inspiring about Seattle, startups, and being a boss lady into a petite package…I wouldn’t have to because we already have Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno! I met her in person last year at a Ladies Get Paid event and it took approximately half a second to be both engulfed in a hug from and deeply energized by her at the same damn time. Sage is at the pulse of the women in startup scene and it’s hard to not be inspired by her determination to make an impact. I’m delighted to have her here on Fresh Jess to tell you more about who she is and what she & co-founder Aparna Rae are forging towards with Future For Us.
Tell me about yourself:
I’m Sage Ke’alohilani Quiamno, a Native Hawaiian woman originally from the island of O’ahu in Hawai’i and now a 6-year resident in Seattle, Washington. I’m the co-founder of Future for Us, a company dedicated to accelerating the advancement of women of color through community, culture and career development. I’m a passionate pay equity advocate and diversity, equity and inclusion champion. I’ve spoke to over 4,000 women about 75x on a mix of panels, interviews and keynote speaking opportunities last year. Most prominently, I helped negotiate $500K in salary increases and positioned 150 promotions from my workshops. I consider myself to be a community builder, podcast enthusiastic and adventure capitalist.
What inspired you to create Future For Us?
After Thanksgiving last year, McKinsey and Lean In released a ‘Women in the Workplace 2018’ report. The report exposed some of the most stats for professional women of color. For example:
Women of color are 20% of the population, and hold 50% of all of the lowest wage jobs.
Women of color only 4% of the c-suite
12% are in middle management and entry level positions
Despite the barriers, women of color are far more likely than white women to want to advance to the next level—and Black and Asian women are even more interested in advancing than men.
These stats really stopped me in my tracks because it made me reflect on my own career challenges as a women of color. Whether it was asking for promotion, negotiating for pay or proving to be a capable and valuable leader in the workplace, it’s always been a struggle.
I knew that we needed to create a community to support and create solutions for women of color in the workplace, especially in Seattle where we are a stagger minority.
I also was inspired by all the phenomenal women of color who have made waves and create waves recently Oprah, Michelle Obama, Arlan Hamilton and all the women of color who ran for office last year.
What can women of color look forward to as part of the Future For Us community?
Women of color can look forward to an trusted, engaging community of other women of color to be a supportive network to lean on. We have a online slack channel, host monthly events that include a mix of curated panels, interviews, classes and workshops, and an annual Spring conference in Seattle. Look forward to the sisterhood you’ve always been looking for.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My Family Matriarchs: The matriarchs in my ‘ohana (family) is one of my biggest inspiration. Each generational matriarch raised me to be the woman I am today - my mother, aunt, grandmother, and great mother. They taught me true strength, self-worth and advocacy.
Oprah Winfrey: Oprah has been a role model since I was old enough to watch television but her words and insights have been more of value as of late. Her story truly inspires me and not just because she was the first female billionaire in the world but because she chooses to use her power and influence in the service of others. She is a master at listening, interviewing and storytelling. Something I’ve always admired. There’s a 60-minute interview with her in 1986 that still gives me chills. She was just about to launch The Oprah Show and the show hosts asked, “And what if you fail?” After a rude question like that live on air, Oprah was not perturbed. She simply responded, “If I fail I have other things in my life that I care about. I will be successful because of the way I treat myself and the way I treat other people.” To be questioned right before one of the most stressful times in your life, live on tv, her answer was a shining example of who is she - her grit, her grace and her drive.
Arlan Hamilton: Arlan has been a huge role model for about 1-2 years now. Seeing her remarkable journey as a startup entrepreneur, VC and CEO and of VC firm (Backstage Capital), dedicated in investing in black, brown and marginalized-led startups. She even raised a $36M fund for black female founders and graced the cover of Fast Company. Since then she has launched 4 accelerator programs in 4 cities - LA, Detroit, Philadelphia and London. She tweeted, “I am not a gatekeeper but a key maker,” a statement I live by every day.
Have you read anything interesting lately?
Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ is a book I just recently finished. It was an incredible insider’s look into Michelle’s life that was honest, gritty and very telling of who is she is. She inter-weaves a socio-economic timeline throughout her narrative, giving us the reader a sense of time. You find out that she was raised by a working-class family that valued her voice as a child, which is rare to most family dynamics. At a young age, she recognized and knew her own voice, to the point where she advocated for her grandma when her grandfather would verbally belittle her. That stuck with me because when I was younger, I experienced the same moment of recognizing my voice and advocating for someone else in your family, even though they’re older. Historically, the book has been on the New York Times best sellers list since its release and she is now the most admired woman in America.
What are you looking forward to in 2019?
In 2019, I looking forward to building a company/brand that women of color trust, value and seek out to be a part of. My goal is for Future For Us to being an instrumental resource for women of color and their careers. I’m looking forward to speaking at SXSW in March on the Google Campus about diversity, equity and inclusion. I am also looking forward to launch our first conference for women of color on April 27th in Seattle. However, what I’m looking forward to the most this year is interviewing Arlan Hamilton. Before the new year, I tagged in my IG story and said “My 2019 goal is to interview Arlan Hamilton live on stage.” She responded back to me and we’re making it happen this year at The Riveter Los Angeles. A lot of dreams coming year this year.
What’s your favorite thing about Seattle?
My favorite thing about Seattle is that after melting the Seattle freeze, you will find a very committed, supportive community of neighbors, business owners and leaders who believe in a better Seattle.
What’s on your playlist right now?
Right now my playlist, admittedly has Ariana Grande. She just released her new album entitled, “Thank U, Next” which was the biggest pop songs of 2018. Not all the songs are great, but there are some gems in there that I absolutely love.
Find Sage at FutureForUs.co.