The FEW November Monthly Meeting was a collaborative event organized together with ADIDAS at their headquarters in Roppongi. FEW president Riya Rapp was one of the night’s panelists, along with ReebokONE Ambassador and fitness entrepreneur Erika Yamaguchi, and President of Johnson & Johnson K.K. Mario Stein. FEW programs co-director Jackie Steele moderated the panel.
Like many businesses, ADIDAS knows that diversity pays off. Research shows that diverse companies are 30% more productive. As a global company, ADIDAS has been striving to empower women in their organization, but still faces common challenge of disproportionately few women in senior positions.
There are many reasons for this, ranging from difficulties managing work and family to the lack of female role models, along with cultural and social pressures in Japan. ADIDAS has started to address the issue with quarterly support sessions for female employees. In these sessions men are also more than welcome, as awareness from both genders is needed to make things change.
Be in the Driver’s Seat of Your Own Life
The panel started with Riya introducing FEW as a strong network of women creating connection and opportunity for its members. The audience, consisting of roughly half ADIDAS staff and half FEW Members and guests, resonated strongly with Riya’s message that women need to be in the driver’s seat of their own lives.
ReebokONE Ambassador and fitness entrepreneur Erika Yamaguchi is a perfect example of a woman in charge of her own life. Born and raised in Kyushu, she first wanted to become a tennis player, but then chose to become a sports trainer. As the only woman graduating from her sports training college, she soon realized she had to distinguish herself from all the male trainers in her field.
“I wanted to create my own fitness program and go global. I started in a small room in Fukuoka, but after a while a customer said very bluntly that if I want to popularize my program worldwide, I first need to go to Tokyo…and here I am. Now, I’m working with Reebok (which is owned by ADIDAS) to promote my Bicore fitness program.”
When asked what is it that keeps driving her, she says it’s her determination, cultivated through sports, to continue giving striving towards her goals and never giving up.
“I feel women need to be more courageous to step forward,” she said. “When you take your space, men are actually more willing to give it to you.”
Learn to Recognize Your Own Unconscious Biases
For Mario Stein, who leads Johnson & Johnson operations in Japan and North East Asia, women have always been leaders in his life. His grandmother ran their family furniture shop after his grandfather passed away, and she became the role model of entrepreneurship for Stein.
Stein, who has a multicultural background and has lived in many countries, considered himself to be an inclusive leader. However, even after joining a global company like J&J, he noticed that he still had some unconscious biases he need to work on. “I realized that I cannot foster a diverse culture within the team if I don’t first come in terms with my own biases,” he recalled.
In J&J, all managers go through quarterly trainings to learn to recognize and manage biases, fostering more inclusive and successful teams.
“Managers need to be role models of the right behavior and drive the change. Women can be role models for men, too, and I personally think women role models in the work environment are actually crucial for men to become more open,” Stein said.
His advice for managers struggling with diversity is to take a step back and listen:
“Try to put yourself in your subordinates’ position and understand the issue from their point of view. Be respectful and transparent – it will also allow others to listen more to us as a leader and as a person.”
The three presentations and the following Q&A provided something to think about for everyone and will hopefully help all the attendees be leaders of their lives and support women around them. FEW wants to thank ADIDAS for the collaboration – together we were able to make this a very successful event and we hope to see more and more strong women taking the lead in work and life.
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