USJC Women Leaders Share Their Mentoring Secrets at the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program Annual Conference

On May 21 and 22, the 2022 TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program (TMWLP) Annual Conference was held virtually. The first day of the conference included workshops on global leadership, financial literacy and maintaining connections. TOMODACHI alumni also had the opportunity to share their experiences. 

Many members of the U.S.-Japan Council participated in the conference, along with individuals from MetLife Japan and the U.S. Embassy. The conference included opening remarks from President & CEO of the U.S.-Japan Council Suzanne Basalla, welcome remarks from the students, keynote presentations and group networking. One of these panels, titled Moving Forward with Mentorship, was hosted by Joy Sakurai, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos who has been a crucial addition to and supporter of the TOMODACHI Initiative since its inception. Ms. Sakurai’s wonderful moderation made it possible for all of the panelists, including U.S.-Japan Council members Aya Kameda and Yoko Otani, to discuss mentorship in depth in an engaging manner.  

In response to a question pertaining to what might help mentees in their quests for different relationships, USJC member and General Manager of Shell Energy Japan Aya Kameda advised the audience to get out of their comfort zones and working proactively. Ms. Kameda also mentioned the difference between mentors and sponsors and the fact that women tend to become too self-conscious and focus on the networking aspect. She advised the audience to seek “not just relationships but opportunities to push your comfort zone, go outside the normal boundaries, and challenge yourself and have people witness it.” Her powerful advice encouraged many of the participants. 

USJC Member and Partner at Straterix, INC. Yoko Otani built on Ms. Kameda’s remarks by offering her ideas on the value of sponsors and mentors Ms. Otani explained how sponsors need to be someone in authority with the power to make decisions. Mentors, meanwhile, have a very special relationship with their mentee, a distinction that clearly illustrated the reality of many women in the workforce. She went on to acknowledge that women’s careers can fluctuate much more than those of their male counterparts. Ms. Otani concluded her remarks by touching on the topic of time management and the importance of making conscious decisions on a daily basis. 

The enriching and insightful discussions from all of the panelists were a wonderful way to explore how women in the workforce are being perceived and how they can manage to lead a successful and yet balanced lifestyle.