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 Rina Bovrisse, activist and founder of the Chateau School
Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting – The Accidental Activist : From Chanel to Governor of Tokyo? – we’re featuring a quick Q&A with speaker Rina Bovrisse. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Join us for an insightful discussion next Wednesday, September 12, as Rina […]Published on 9th September 2018
Insider Intel on the Japan Market Expansion Competition
When the opportunity to apply for a Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) scholarship through FEW arose, FEW members Jane Szafraniec (pictured center left) and Nina Cataldo (pictured center) jumped at the opportunity. To understand the full extent of why this was such an amazing space to be in, they’ve shared what JMEC is, their experiences […]Published on 7th September 2018
Event Recap: TELL & FEW Presents The Feminine Eye
On Saturday, August 8th, a group of 11 people interested in learning more about photography gathered at the National Art Center in Roppongi for a women-led photo walk by Selena Hoy, TELL Outreach Coordinator and FEW Community Services Director Tia Haygood, who also is a professional photographer of TopTia Photography.Published on 3rd September 2018
September 2018 Strategic Partner Member Offers & Other News
Check out the latest member offers and opportunities from our Strategic Partners and other FEW Community Events here! Our Strategic Partners are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. And go to our Strategic Partners page to learn more about all of FEW’s Strategic Partners, who not only support FEW’s activities but also […]Published on 27th August 2018
How I got Here: Kirsten O’Connor
I decided at age 7, quite resolutely that I wanted to be a teacher. All my decisions thereafter created the path to a teaching qualification, a first teaching post in London, a promotion and then the biggest decision of all – to apply for a teaching job overseas. In Japan no less. Accepting a […]Published on 27th August 2018
Masterminding – Supporting your Success
People buy things because they like the story behind the brand. YOUR story is a key element to your success. Join us as we kick-off the fifth season of the FEW Women's Start-Up Club focusing on the overarching theme of shaping Your Business Story.
FEW Fundraiser Event with Strategic Partner Mom in Balance Tokyo
Start your Sunday with an energetic and fun workout in Yoyogi Park hosted by instructors and FEW members Julie Mangen and Tanja Kinnen from Mom in Balance Tokyo.
October 2018 Members Exclusive Wine Night
Join FEW for our twice-yearly members-exclusive wine night, courtesy of our Strategic Partner Oakwood Premier Midtown. Come along, network, and share your stories around a nice glass of wine in the stunning ambiance of the resident's lounge!
Midweek Lunch Mixer
Take a break from work and join us for delicious food and great networking at our monthly midweek lunch gathering at Blu Jam Cafe in Daikanyama!
Note: The Lunch Mixer will take place on a Wednesday!