Hawai‘i’s Got Pride: Spotlight on Beth Whitehead
The executive VP and chief administrative officer of American Savings Bank says “inclusivity is truly welcoming all the diverse people and points of view.”
When I last caught up with Beth Whitehead, she was in the “20 for the Next 20” 2015 cohort, and spearheading a massive project: ASB Campus, an 11-story, 373,000-square-foot office building and headquarters. It opened in 2019.
“The campus is vital to our culture,” says Whitehead, who just celebrated 15 years at American Savings Bank. “The campus is for everyone in the company, not just people assigned to work in the building; even Neighbor Island employees, we make sure they are in for training. It’s the hub. It’s democratized our experience, and it’s the right message.”
In addition to her official title – executive VP and chief administrative officer – Whitehead has a self-appointed one: chief fun officer. Under her leadership, ASB has been recognized by Hawaii Business Magazine as a Best Place to Work for 14 consecutive years, including placing No. 1 this year on the large employer list for Most Family Friendly Company and Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.
What’s her secret sauce for creating this kind of workplace? “The reason the wins are repeated is because we mean it. We don’t take employees for granted. We listen. Everyone needs to feel important, and your executives aren’t more valued than your tellers. We build that into everything we do.”
Whitehead, who grew up in Arkansas, has a law degree. She and her wife, Linda Lockwood, have been together 23 years and married since 2014. They have two dogs, and enjoy gardening, entertaining at home and going to the theater. She is a board member for Girls Scouts of Hawai‘i, Child and Family Service and the Hawai‘i Theatre Center.
“The world has certainly changed since I entered the workplace,” Whitehead reflects. “When I started working in the early 1990s, (LBGTQ+) people had to live two lives. There were scary consequences of being out. That’s completely changed. It’s an amazing thing that companies are now celebrating inclusivity.”
But for businesses, celebrating it and living it are slightly different, Whitehead says. “I am always cognizant that inclusivity is truly welcoming all the diverse people and points of view in a workplace. The external messages can send a message but the internal factors, that’s what’s real and not just marketing. It’s great that people entering the workforce now can see people in business who are gay and thriving. But anyone, anything they are, if there’s a workplace where they feel they can thrive, that is wonderful.”