The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


JULY 2014
Q & A: Sachin N. Shah
President and CEO of MetLife Insurance K.K.

By Brandi Goode

    ACCJ Journal: What are your views on mentoring versus sponsorship?

Sponsoring is critical; particularly early on, especially for senior male executives to sponsor female talent who they think have potential.

I’ve had several sponsors in my own career; they got my name into discussions I may have been left out of otherwise. I don’t see why that should be any different for female employees.

Mentoring is also important. It involves coaching and guiding people, but ultimately you are leaving it to them to act on the information that’s been shared. People need both sponsors and mentors.

I also advise people to have multiple mentors, because you need perspective.

    How can companies get started with sponsoring?

The TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program is a great example of both sponsorship and mentoring.

We hope that some of the young women involved in the program will come to work for us. We need to have a flow of talent at all stages of the leadership pipeline to achieve our goal of having women in 30 percent of leadership roles by 2020.

The MetLife Japan Women’s Business Network is another program inside our company, for participants to create a unified voice and mentoring opportunities.

We are also formalizing our talent review process to make sure that women are in contention when jobs come up.

    What have your work experiences in male-dominated countries such as Mexico and India taught you?

Actually, MetLife in Mexico is headed by a woman, Carmina Abad. There’s no reason MetLife in Japan couldn’t be headed by a woman.

In India, we have many female staff, but we face the same challenge as in Japan, as not many are in management.

For our business, we need a representative female voice, or we risk our strategies and thinking being out of touch with our customers, at least 50 percent of whom are women.

    What is the level of interest in your programs?

The TOMODACHI program is currently oversubscribed. We’ve had great success finding mentors, too; the demand and supply are there.

My experience is that we have the talent there today, it’s just untapped.

These types of networks get women to consider all the things they can do—this means moving left and right, perhaps, before moving up. It gives them confidence to think outside their current career path.