The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

As part of a series of video interviews with ACCJ leaders, new Women in Business (WIB) Committee Co-chairs Ryann Thomas and Mari Matthews share their thoughts on the state of the workplace for women in Japan, outline their goals for the committee in 2016, and offer advice for aspiring women leaders.

Citing the strong foundation laid by outgoing Co-chairs Deborah Hayden and Elizabeth Handover, Thomas and Matthews say that expectations are now even higher—and they plan to build on the committee’s momentum.

Thomas, who came to Japan from New Zealand 20 years ago and is a partner at PwC Tax Japan, explains: “We want to keep the legacy of what we have done, but we want to have fresh ideas.” To this end, they are working to grow the number of volunteers.

Ryann Thomas, partner, PwC Tax Japan

Ryann Thomas, partner, PwC Tax Japan

Hokkaido native Matthews, who is executive officer and vice president of government relations Japan at MetLife, gets specific about early plans: “We want to launch a library in which we will collect good articles about women’s issues. We are looking at a lot of initiatives—so we are in the mode to plan everything at the moment, working with all the different chapters.” Initiatives they are exploring include increasing participation by women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) industries.

Mari Matthews, executive officer and vp government relations, MetLife

Mari Matthews, executive officer and
vp government relations, MetLife

Working together and encouraging aspiring women leaders is what led Matthews to take on the co-chair role. “I had so many mentors in my career, and now I feel like I’m the age that I can give back to younger people,” she explains. “So I wanted to be involved in something to encourage Japanese females to do more.”

Greater involvement is the first step toward what Thomas sees as the eventual endgame for WIB. “We’ve just sent an email out to the members of the Women in Business Committee, broadly to see if we can solicit some new members who will be willing to join us in some of those new initiatives, at least in the short term and the medium term. I think in the long term, there will be no Women in Business Committee—because it won’t be needed.”

Bringing about the day when men and women are truly on an equal footing in business will require a change in mindset, according to Matthews. “It’s coming from both males and females. From males, I think they have to come out of the traditional image of women in a supporting role. People can do more, so give more chances to people and change your mind. From the female side, females have to take risks. They should be willing to take risks. That’s the most important thing, I think, at the moment.”

Thomas echoes the sentiment, adding that, “for aspiring women leaders in particular, my experience—now that I’m a partner and working with female staff—I would say that, when opportunities are offered, you should grab them … even if they’re outside your comfort zone.”

WATCH THE VIDEO

Thomas and Matthews share more of their plans for the Women in Business Committee, as well as the stories of their own careers, in the full video on the ACCJ YouTube channel.

Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/AmChamJapan
and subscribe today!

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-chief of The Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.
Citing the strong foundation laid by outgoing Co-chairs Deborah Hayden and Elizabeth Handover, Thomas and Matthews say that expectations are now even higher.