Mrs. Abe addressing the audience
On May 30, 80 Japanese female leaders gathered at the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel in Shibuya, filled with energy and excitement. They celebrated their accomplishments and reflected with their peers on their last ten months as participants of the TOMODACHI-MetLife Women’s Leadership Program.
The group was honored to welcome Japan’s First Lady Mrs. Akie Abe. The one-day conference included other distinguished professionals such as MetLife Japan’s CEO & President Sachin Shah, Lumina Learning’s Elizabeth Handover, Kathy Matsui from Goldman Sachs, and Kumi Fujisawa from think tank SophiaBank. Ms. Matsui, who is a Member of the USJC(J) Board of Councilors, was featured in a panel with Ms. Fujisawa, where Council Member Janelle Sasaki served as the moderator. USJC Board Members Royanne Doi and Atsuko Fish were also in attendance. This conference served as an opportunity to openly discuss the accomplishments and goals of the program participants and hear from inspiring speakers.
(L-R) Ms. Sasaki, Ms. Matsui, Ms. Fujisawa
Elizabeth Handover began the day with a leadership workshop, stressing the importance of believing in oneself as a leader in a world that is not female friendly (yet). She reminded the participants to believe they are worthy of being listened to, and to walk into meetings with their heads held high. “If you feel strong, people will notice, and they will listen to you,” she said. “Be confident.”
Kathy Matsui, Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan, is a distinguished leader in her field. Addressing her career thus far, Ms. Matsui said that it is a common misconception that the path to success is smooth. In reality, there are always obstacles along the way. She highlighted the significance of these challenges, and said that they help people grow both personally and professionally.
There was generous applause as Mrs. Abe approached the podium for her presentation. Her poise radiated as she voiced some of her own thoughts on feminism and the future for female leadership. She reminded the participants to cherish their valuable feminine qualities such as generosity, flexibility and elegance. She also challenged women to aspire to reach their full potential as leaders without making sacrifices.
Mr. Shah shaking hands with program participants
At the start of the program last autumn, 41 Japanese university women were paired with 41 female professionals, who came together from Tokyo, Naha, Osaka and Fukuoka to encourage networking and teamwork. Participants attended group sessions hosted by the U.S. Embassy and consulates to receive training in financial empowerment and leadership in the professional world. On their ten-day trip to the United States, they visited Washington, DC and New York City, where they met with individuals like Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. The young mentees now have the tools to pursue their careers, and the mentors have been rejuvenated by their mentees. They are now legacies of the TOMODACHI Generation, and have set the bars high for the 2015-2016 participants.
See more photos from the Conference here.