(L-R) Dr. Sachiko Kuno, Ms. Donna Cole, Dr. Mireya Solis, Ms. Fujiyo Ishiguro
On February 8, USJC Board Member Donna Cole was one of four speakers featured on a panel discussion called "Womenomics 2.0: The potential of female entrepreneurs in Japan" at the Brookings Institution.
In her introductory speech, moderator Mireya Solis (Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies at Brookings) explained that female entrepreneurship was a crucial part of Womenomics, and that focusing only on the established corporate world will make the Womenomics movement incomplete.
Dr. Solis (left) interviews Ms. Mitsue Kurihara (right)
As part of a panel of women entrepreneurs, Ms. Cole, who is President and CEO of Cole Chemical, shared what led to her successful career. Examples included having good mentors ("sometimes we just need someone to believe in us and tell us, 'Go do it'"), hiring the right employees and training them, asking questions, understanding trends, and always analyzing her business model.
She shared that she was motivated to start her own company because a Japanese company had refused to do business with her, due to the fact that she is a Japanese American woman. "I'm glad to see change is on the horizon," she said, and discussed the current benefits of working with Japanese companies, like building a lasting relationship with them.
She said that it is much easier to start a business today, due to changes in technology, service, and mindset. "Women are flexible, innovate, creative, collaborative and caring," she said. "And we just need to put ethical, caring and compassionate leaders at the table to make the world a better place."
Dr. Kuno (left) discusses her experience
When asked about specific measures she takes as a CEO, Ms. Cole shared that she cooks for employees when she can, and has clear communication guidelines where employees specify whether they are venting, asking for advice or requesting action. She said that when finances were tight, she took a vote and gave employees the choice of taking a few days off without pay, rather than letting people go.
The other speakers each shared their perspectives and advice based on their careers and experience. Ms. Mitsue Kurihara, Audit and Supervisory Board Member, Development Bank of Japan (DBJ), discussed DBJ's New Business Plan Competition for Women Entrepreneurs. Ms. Fujiyo Ishiguro, President and CEO of Netyear Group Corporation, shared her experience in Silicon Valley and Japan, and the importance of not putting a limit on yourself. Dr. Sachiko Kuno, Co-Founder, President and CEO of the S&R Foundation, talked about the importance of cross-pollination across sectors and creating a momentum that leads to a better world.
Ms. Ishiguro (far right) presents the challenges of being a working mother
A full video of the event, as well as highlights, are available on the Brookings website.
For tweets from this event, see our Storify page.