The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


JULY 2014
Holding Our Future in Their Hands

By Elizabeth Handover

Last year, the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program was launched as a key mentoring scheme in Tokyo and the Kansai region. The 10-month program pairs highly motivated female Japanese university students with Japanese businesswomen.

Its objectives include fostering networking and lasting professional relationships, while training participants in essential leadership and confidence-building skills.

Three very special young women who are currently participating in this initiative attended the USJC ACCJ Women in Business Summit. The following excerpts give a glimpse of the event through their eyes, and provide insight on how both the program and the summit are shaping these young women into next-generation leaders, a force that Japan greatly needs.

    Haruka Satake

Joining the women’s leadership program has changed me very much. Before, I had unconsciously limited myself, but I have learned to understand my strengths, and this has brought me confidence. I now feel I can do anything I put my mind to.

I also want other women to change like me and take action without fear.

But I realized that I didn’t know how to inspire other women, so I joined the WIB Summit, hoping to get answers to this question.

At the summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke on creating a Japan where women shine, and I met a lot of “shining” women and men that day. They have passion and keep working hard to achieve their goals.

I was so encouraged by talking with them and listening to their stories. I realized that presenting myself as a role model is one of the most effective ways to communicate my message.

I have decided to keep moving forward and to become a fascinating person like the summit participants.

I strongly felt that this is the time for women to advance to the next stage. Past generations showed us the road for success as women in business. Now, we must accelerate this trend and make it normal for women to participate and lead in business.

I am ready to take the baton and pass it to the next generation. As Deborah Gillis, president and CEO of Catalyst Inc. said, “We can do it, because we are not alone.”

    Na Yeong Shin

The WIB Summit was a great opportunity for me to bring together all the skills I had learnt during the women’s leadership program.

Through the Lumina Spark self-development program, I was able to understand in depth about my own personality.

I now see that skills I believed to be weaknesses are actually some of my strongest traits. Knowing this has given me confidence and helped me to take more initiative than I did in the past.

Gaining self-confidence has allowed me to present myself more effectively. As a result, at the summit I noticed that I was speaking much more fluently than I had done before and I could present myself clearly and confidently.

Before the program, as a student I did not have many chances to network with professionals. Consequently I used to be nervous and stumble with my words. During the summit I noticed that I no longer apologized when introducing myself. I was able to act professionally when I networked with the many inspiring people there.

The summit was a great finish to the leadership program for me and altogether it was very fulfilling, as I was able to not only learn a lot but also to engage with lots of interesting people.

One inspiring point I gained from one of the many female role models is that, when we find something that does not fulfill our needs or desires, creating a satisfying new product or service is not as difficult as we might believe.

It is only our uncertainties and worries about stepping out of our comfort zone that hold us back.

The greatest benefit I gained from attending the summit was to realize that all the skills and self-confidence I have developed have also transformed my thoughts and actions.

In my future I know there will be challenges and difficulties to overcome. I feel I am ready to meet all the experiences that will make my dreams concrete and realistic.

    Misato Oi

It feels very exciting to be a young Japanese woman right now, for we are not only the witnesses, but also the heroines of change.

US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy’s message, “find a role you can play,” echoed in my mind during the summit and now I understand that my role is to be a voice of my generation.

Joining the Women’s Leadership Program and the Women in Business Summit gave me a new dream to start a yearlong monthly speaking tour. Someday I hope to be well known enough to come back to the summit as a speaker.

I know that changes can bring conflicts, however, I am ready and capable of being a formidable change-maker.

Prime Minster Shinzo Abe’s words, “Japan must become a place where women shine,” have made my determination even stronger. I will be a proud voice and shine, hoping to be a light for others.

I know that I am like a tiny universe hidden in the midst of a world that holds more than 7 billion people. But one thing is for certain: we can always change the world around us to bring about a huge difference.

I would like to convey my sincere gratitude for all the people supporting my challenging journey, which finally will be OUR journey. Let me conclude with a haiku poem that I have written:

Ways have been shown
Ready to stand out
Ready to make a difference



Elizabeth Handover is co-chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee and president of Intrapersona K.K., Lumina Learning Asia Partner.