The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan



Creating Win-Win Solutions

Nagoya conference promotes diversity in the workplace

By Erin Sakakibara

After an inspirational day at the USJC-ACCJ Women in Business Summit in May 2014, several members of the American Chamber of Commerce (ACCJ)–Chubu chapter had a desire to create something similar.

In late October, the “Diversity in the Workplace: Broadening Culture Understanding and Empowering Women” summit was held at the Westin Nagoya Castle Hotel, with about 100 attendees.

After an address from ACCJ President Jay Ponazecki, Akiko Yoshimoto, vice-governor of Aichi Prefecture, opened the plenary session. Yoshimoto highlighted some of the challenges and focal points for diversity solutions on the government level.

These included tackling goals for the number of executive positions held by women, improving work-life balance for both genders, female empowerment issues, and challenges facing families needing childcare.

Other keynote speakers included Monika Merz, president of Toys“R”Us Asia–Pacific, and Dean Foster, president of DFA Intercultural Global Solutions.

Merz delivered an inspiring talk on some of the issues raised during her tenure at Toys“R”Us, including the need to identify staff that have valuable skills and are in danger of leaving due to a change in family circumstances.

She discussed solutions the company implemented, whether it was offering them flex or part-time schedules, or work-from-home arrangements for win-win results.

Foster described the ways in which international companies are encouraging diversity, both on a local level and through virtual global teams, a theme that he expanded on during his breakout session workshop.

A session co-facilitated by Ginger Griggs and Elizabeth Handover of Lumina Learning enlightened participants on the factors that might be holding them back in the workplace.

Griggs and Handover offered tools for visualizing and realizing personal success, to boost confidence in one’s career. These tools were tangible and useful, and many participants remarked on their eagerness to incorporate them into their personal and professional lives.

In addition, a panel discussion offered insight from the government, education, and private-sector perspectives, and included a question-and-answer session for participants.

One university student asked about what she should be looking for when applying for jobs. Another participant expressed her frustration and received validation regarding the substantial pressure put on Japanese women to do everything from raising a family, to managing a household and working.

All in all, the summit was a great learning opportunity for men and women, executives and employees, as well as students and potential staff. Plans are already under way for the next Chubu diversity summit in October 2015, in conjunction with the Aichi government.



Erin Sakakibara is the secretary of the ACCJ-Chubu Women in Business Committee and the 2014 Volunteer of the Year.