In honor of the 35th anniversary of FEW last year, we are featuring highlights of major milestones in FEW’s history. We’re kicking off this month with the founding of FEW in 1981 and how the organization has grown over the years into a community for internationally-minded women in Tokyo to learn, connect, and achieve their full professional and personal potential.
THE FOUNDING OF FEW
As recalled by FEW Co-Founder Elyse M. Rogers
Elyse Rogers and Jane Waugh, two American women working in Japan in 1981, met at a social meeting and talked about how they both missed their networking and business associations they had enjoyed in the United States.
Figuring that there must be other foreign career women in Tokyo, they decided to begin an organization for women like them. They came up with a list of about 10 or 12 women who they knew and enlisted their help in establishing what eventually became FEW.
The first meeting was held on October 29, 1981, in the Tokyo Prince Hotel’s coffee shop after work. Eight members attended, and they all agreed the idea of a working women’s organization was a good one. More names were added to the list by those who had associates or friends who would qualify to join.
The group began meeting and decided on a few ground rules, such as: they would not meet in homes as was typical of women’s groups at the time, but would meet in a club or hotel like their male professional counterparts; programs would be aimed at issues concerning actively working foreign women in Japan; and though other women not actively working could attend, the content of meetings would not be altered to appeal to them.
The Early Years
No officers were in place for almost a year. During that time, Elyse booked rooms at the Tokyo American Club at a “classroom” rate. Jane and Elyse scheduled the programs and invited speakers with the help of other members. Some of the most popular programs were simply group discussions –one popular discussion topic at the time was “Should Foreign Executive Women study the Japanese language?”
The Board and Membership Forms
After about one year, officers were elected. Elyse became the first president and was reelected the following year. Other officers were elected and the Vice President became program chair. Nominal dues were charged to be sure the room and refreshments costs would be covered each month.
Due to there being truly ‘few’ foreign women in Tokyo at the time, Jane came up with the acronym ‘FEW’ for Foreign Executive Women,’ and it was adopted. In about 1985, there was a movement by some members to change the name to something more egalitarian like Foreign Working Women of Tokyo, though this name change was defeated in a vote by the general membership.
Throughout the years the group grew, a newsletter was published, member lists were compiled, and retreats and trips were organized. Over time, the organization became more well-known, with a Wall Street Journal article in the early 1980s marking the first media recognition of the group’s presence; since then, many other articles and references in the newspapers and other publications have followed. In 1991, the group also formed a Kansai chapter, which meets monthly in Osaka.
FEW has grown over more than 35 years and 14 presidents, attracting women from many industries and backgrounds. As more and more internationally minded Japanese women showed an interest in the network, in 2008 the motion was passed to make two changes that would serve to diversify membership. The first was to open membership to Japanese women. The second was to change the name to FEW: For Empowering Women in Japan.
Q&A with tailor Melanie Uematsu
Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting on ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All,’ we’re featuring a Q&A with our speaker, tailor Melanie Uematsu. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Hear about women’s love-hate relationship with the fashion industry, why one style doesn’t fit all, and how […]Published on 28th June 2017
June Meeting Recap: A Personal Journey: Japan’s War Brides
By Lisa Matsumoto, Public Relations & Communications Intern Members and guests alike joined FEW’s monthly meeting on June 8th to hear the story of Japanese war brides, a story often overlooked and untold. We welcomed Lucy Craft, a filmmaker and former FEW member in the 80s, to reveal their hidden stories. As a daughter of […]Published on 28th June 2017
May 2017 Women’s Start-up Club Recap: Location Independent
The FEW Women’s Start-Up Club (WSC) attracted its largest audience on May 31, 2017, with three panelists sharing how their online-based businesses are succeeding, independent of location. Below are summaries of their presentations. Be sure to check out their sites for more inspiration! The next WSC event is “Mentoring and Networking” on Thursday, June 29. […]Published on 22nd June 2017
FEW Community 2017 Survey – We’d like to hear from you!
FEW has launched its biennial FEW Community 2017 Survey, and we invite all FEW members and friends to take part! The survey will take no more than 10 minutes to complete. By sharing your feedback, comments and suggestions on FEW programs and events as well as your past and future experiences with FEW, you will help us ensure that we continue to meet our […]Published on 20th June 2017
Event Recap: Mirai no Mori Back to Nature Outdoor Cooking Program
FEW members and friends spent a fantastic day as volunteers at Mirai no Mori’s Back to Nature Program on June 10th. On the outskirts of Tokyo, in beautiful and green Mitake, we met with the staff and volunteer teams of Mirai no Mori and a Saitama children’s home to support a program designed to empower […]Published on 16th June 2017
All Levels Yoga Class by FURLA Yoga
Join us for a relaxing Sunday afternoon yoga session and get energized for the week ahead! Noriko from FURLA Yoga, a FEW Strategic Partner, will teach a hatha yoga class in English for all levels.
FEW & Mirai no Mori Concert for a Cause
We invite all music lovers to join us for a special concert at 2ND HALF in Takadanobaba and enjoy a fun evening filled with great music for a great cause-- supporting FEW Community Services Strategic Partner Mirai no Mori's Back to Nature Program!
One Size Doesn't Fit All
Join us for the last meeting of the current FEW year as we hear from Melanie Uematsu, a tailor, on women’s love-hate relationship with the fashion industry, why one style doesn’t fit all, and how we can solve this issue as individual consumers.