Leadership

Run solely by members for its members, FEW Japan is governed by a Board of Directors, elected for a two-year term by the regular membership that meets monthly.

Comprising women from diverse nationalities and professional backgrounds, all board members serve on a volunteer basis and have separate full-time or part-time jobs.

Learn more about our 2019-2021 Board by clicking their names below.

If you are interested in getting more involved with FEW, please talk to one of us at our next event or contact us via email anytime!

President - Kirsten O'Connor

Kirsten O'Connor's educational credentials include a BA. Ed in Primary Education and English from Canterbury Christ Church University, an M.Ed in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Queensland (Australia) and National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) from the Institute of Education, UK. Kirsten was a class teacher and borough Leading Maths Teacher in London before moving to Tokyo in 2001. During her 17 years at BST (The British School in Tokyo) she was Head of Years 1 & 2, Deputy Head Teacher, and for the final six years served as Head Teacher of the Primary School. She was an elected member of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, and was Head of Primary in 2014 when BST won Company of the Year with the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. In July 2018, Kirsten left BST and launched QUEST TOKYO KK, a company offering quality educational services and tutoring to the Japanese and international communities in Tokyo. QUEST counts seven part-time tutors (English, maths and chemistry), four group phonics synthetic programs in both Sangenjaya and Roppongi, and summer camp program in the Japan Alps. Kirsten is an active Entrepreneur Member of the BCCJ, an inspired Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a Member of The Tutoring Association (MTA).

Vice President - Jackie Steele

Jackie F. Steele is a trilingual political scientist specializing in the integration of women leaders and diverse talent into democratic institutions, public policies, workplace and organizational cultures. She has taught at universities in Canada and Japan over the past decade. During her 20 years in Japan, Jackie has contributed Canadian frameworks of diverse citizenship, intercultural literacy, and systems design with her networks in academia, government, and civil society. While associate professor at the University of Tokyo, she pursued research on Japanese women’s movements and young women leaders in post-disaster Tohoku, while overseeing 12 impactful issues of Social Science Japan Journal (Oxford). She is currently associate professor in the Graduate Law School, Nagoya University. As the founder of en-joi Diversity & Inclusion Consulting and Training, she is supporting private sector change agents in Japan, Canada and the US who wish to ground a holistic praxis of diversity and inclusive leadership into their business and innovation strategies. Jackie is an amateur taiko artist and a mother to two delightfully curious young children.

Finance Director - Neela Sampanthan

Neela Sampanthan is an Australian Chartered Accountant and CPA with over 15 years of corporate sector experience drawn from Retail Energy Markets and Asset Management. Most recently she worked for a Health Tech in Australia playing a vital role in the sale of the business into Private Equity. She moved to Tokyo less than a year ago with her husband and 2 children and is enjoying the experience of living in Japan. She has previously held voluntary roles as a Finance Advisor to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Consumer Advisory Group, a state-based organisation in Australia whose primary role is to bridge the gap between consumers of mental health services and government, by providing guidance to decision-makers regarding law and policy reform. She currently manages her own finance consultancy and provides finance and accounting advisory support to companies in Tokyo and Sydney. She is looking forward to getting to know the FEW members better and to contributing positively to its diverse community.

Special Events Director - Kyoko Nagano

Kyoko is a Japanese national who has lived overseas in countries such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia, USA, Thailand for 17 years as an expatriate together with her family. Since she was little, she has learned Japanese traditional culture such as calligraphy, Nichibu (Japanese dance) Urasenke tea ceremony, Ikebana and Sodo Japanese kimono. It has been her passion to introduce beautiful Japanese culture to people for many years. Her work experience as executive assistant in a trading company, foreign institutions such as AIG, UBS, MetLife has helped many expat executives. This year, she launched two corporations -- Mypal Inc, to support cultural teachers as an agent, and Sake Lovers Inc, to support small sake breweries. Kyoko joined FEW in February 2018 and was inspired by many like-minded women. In her role as Special Events Director, she looks forward to coordinating events in line with the interests and needs of the FEW community.

Membership Director - Shizuka Suzuki

Shizuka Suzuki was born and raised in a traditional Japanese family in a suburb of metropolitan Tokyo. She lived for four years with her family in the U.S. where she received her high school diploma. Her experience in the U.S. broadened her view on life and opportunities. After graduating from the Aoyama Gakuin University in Japan, Shizuka joined a US-based advertisement firm and started her career in marketing communication. Ever since, she has engaged in various fields, including management planning at both Foreign-based and Japanese companies. Throughout her career, her role has focused on developing happy relationships with clients and customers. Shizuka is excited to work with the empowering members of FEW as Membership Director.

Communications Director - Stephanie Bay

Stephanie Bay is a Civil Engineer from Germany with over 10 years of experience in the construction industry. For over 8 years she worked for Northern Europe’s largest construction company, Skanska in Sweden’s capital Stockholm. She was one of the few female managers on railway and highway projects when she started off her career and is eager to see more women enter that industry. Now Stephanie works for the Japanese company Nohara Holdings as Project Manager supporting the use of digital technology on construction projects. Coming to Japan was a long-held dream and Stephanie made it happen in 2019. With a plane ticket and two bags, she left Europe hoping to find a job in Tokyo and the rest is history. Her message to the FEW community is “dare to dream and make that dream come true!”.

Public Relations Director - Keri Cromb

Keri Cromb obtained her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta. She has been in Japan for 15 years, spending nine of those in the public schools working alongside teachers and the Board of Education of Ehime Prefecture. Having gained first-hand experience with how Japanese culture and societal expectations are reinforced starting with kindergarten through high school, she is driven to finding ways to empower Japanese women to take the leaps they are meant for. A mother to children ages 2 and 10, she has spent her limited free time being an active thought leader and community participant by joining FEW Japan, attending W20 for 2019 and completing the Dale Carnegie Course. Having located to Tokyo in 2016, she immediately joined FEW and is now enthusiastic to serve in the PR role to support our members and contributing sponsors.  

Sponsorship Co-Director - Kaoru Utada

Kaoru Utada is the Alumni Manager at the TOMODACHI Initiative, a private-public partnership between the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the U.S.-Japan Council. She is responsible for developing and managing over 7,800 alumni to reach their full potential to become the next generation of leaders in Japan and the United States. Prior to her current role, Kaoru created and managed over 20 programs as the Program Manager with a focus on addressing social challenges through people-to-people connections. Kaoru is a Japanese-American shin-nisei (new second generation) “reverse import” from New York who moved to Tokyo in October 2012 to support Japan in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake (3.11). After working in the news industry for close to ten years, she felt that the media does a great job raising issues but wanted to help find solutions to those issues as the next stage in her career. After the events of 3.11, she felt the need to be on the ground and moved to Japan to help find and implement solutions to support those in Tohoku and Japan recover from the disaster. 

Sponsorship Co-Director - Lilly Hart

Lilly Hart has studied Japanese since kindergarten, when she first began in a k-12 Japanese-Immersion program in Portland, Oregon. She went on to earn a Bachelors in Public Relations at DePaul University in Chicago, where she did a short-term study abroad program with the US-Japan Council’s TOMODACHI Initiative. Inspired by her time abroad, she spent three years on JET in Toyama Prefecture, during which time she served as a Director of PR for AJET. This position acted as liaison between the ministries that sponsor the JET (Japan Exchange Teaching) Programme, current JET participants, and the alumni association. With her communications and Japanese experience, Lilly decided to further her language skills with an intensive year of language study at the Inter-University Center. She now works as the Marketing and Outreach Coordinator at Ashinaga, the largest non-government organization in Japan, which has provided educational funding for over 110,000 students who have lost one or both parents. With FEW Japan, she is excited to strengthen existing partnerships and forge new relationships.

Programs Co-Director - Yukiko Matsumoto

Yukiko Matsumoto grew up in a traditional Japanese family with traditional manners and culture. She has been working in Tokyo for 5 years but has visited 35 countries. She lived in France, Italy, U.S. and Canada where she pursued studies and enriched her international experience as a cultural bridge. Currently, she is the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of an IT start-up company in Tokyo where she handles operations, marketing, PR and communications, while serving as a cultural bridge between foreign engineers and conservative Japanese corporate culture. Past work experience includes the high-end jewelry industry where she served as the Sale Lead for foreign royal families and celebrities, and the Head of Visual Merchandising in Japan, which launched 7 branches, 2 new store openings and various Special exhibitions. Yukiko is always happy to share her insights on the secrets of pearls and diamonds, and also traditional Japanese spirit and culture.

Programs Co-Director - Sabrina Hassanali

Sabrina Hassanali comes from a family of adventurous entrepreneurs and empowered women. She can find relatives on five continents; they are collectively part of the larger Indian diaspora. Sabrina began her professional career practicing law in the U.S. After years in immigration and compliance work, she combined her business interest with her legal skills in real estate ventures, running her own real estate business as closing attorney, property manager, and AirBnb host. In 2017, Sabrina began work as a JET at Nishi High School. There, she used debate, writing, and public speaking to help her students develop a global mindset. In 2018, Sabrina began her participation in the Japan Market Expansion Competition, which reinvigorated her entrepreneurial spirit. Nowadays, she enjoys empowering people organizations to find progressive and sustainable ways to develop resilience and new opportunities. When she is not in Tokyo, Sabrina is off-grid in nature or eating strange foods abroad.

The 2019-2021 FEW Board is also very grateful for all of the hard work and dedication of the Boards before them, led by the following past FEW Board Presidents.

  • Elyse M. Rogers (1981~1984)
  • Mary Kathryn Clubb (1984~1985)
  • Virginia Kouyoumdjian (1985~1987)
  • Ruth Morris (1987~1990)
  • Catherine Moss (1990~1992)
  • Patti Salvagio (1992~1994)
  • Diane Morris (1995~1997)
  • Alison Pockett (1997~2002)
  • Verena Urbschat (2002~2007)
  • Julia Maeda (2007~2010)
  • Lisa Gravestock (2010~2011)
  • Sarah Everitt Furuya (2011~2013)
  • Joy Fajardo (2013~2015)
  • Sarah Achilles (2015~2018)
  • Riya Rapp (2018~2019)