Diversifying Tech & Womxn in STEAM: Japan and the World 2022 – Recap


In honor of International Women’s month, FEW Japan was proud to host this special event on the topic of “Diversifying Tech and Womxn in STE(A)M: Japan and the World 2022”, for the fourth year running. This was a good opportunity for us to set this important topic on the radar shining a spotlight on this important topic, “How to build an equitable democratic society and culture?

We were pleased to feature a panel discussion with five (5) pioneering leaders who are working to promote women’s empowerment and diversity-positive workplaces in traditionally male-dominated industries of science and technology.

Why do we focus on Diversifying Tech

We have been building this for 4 years starting at Tokyo Chapter in 2018, selling out the Canadian Embassy theatre in 2019, bringing it digital for our 2021 event on DX, and this year in 2022 we are looking at “Diversifying Tech and Womxn in STE(A)M”. The concept behind STE(A)M is that while science and technology, engineering and mathematics are important areas for women to have more representation and diversity in, the arts are also equally important hence the A in STE(A)M. All this comes together to help build a robust society. 

Meet our Panelists

Réjeanne Aimey P.Eng. Founding Director, Black Engineers of Canada

Réjeanne Aimey is a strong and empathetic leader — a licensed Professional Engineer and a not-for-profit board director at Black Engineers of Canada, the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, and the Ontario Professional Engineers Foundation for Education. She is a strong advocate of STE(A)M, inclusivity, and demonstrating how people can contribute to economic prosperity and a better society for all. She shared that she was the only woman of color in her year in University and she is usually 1 of 2 women of color in most workplaces that she has been in. However, there are several organizations in Canada that are working to further improve the diversity in Canada and efforts are in progress to improve the recruitment, retention and professional development of women on a national scale.

Key Takeaways Message

3 important areas of focus to achieving diversity of women in tech:

  1. Developing men as allies – encourage men and boys to be active supporters of women empowerment.
  2. Conducting research on women in engineering – understanding the participation rates and the barriers and tactics for women in the workplace.
  3. Celebrating International Women in Engineering day on June 23rd every year. This is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the achievements of women in engineering.

Dr Sarah K. Abe, Advisor of Women in Science in Japan

Sarah K. Abe obtained a Master of Science in Health and Society: International Gender Studies from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. She holds a PhD in International Health from the University of Tokyo. As Assistant Professor in the Global Health Policy Department at U’Tokyo, she led the Global Health Entrepreneurship Program. Dr. Abe has contributed to research in cancer epidemiology, maternal and child health, nutrition and non-communicable diseases. Their mission at Women in Science in Japan is to empower young women scientists in Japan and foster leadership in the sciences. They strive to provide a platform for women scientists to connect, provide support, and find inspiration. The primary goal of the organization is to connect students with a network of peers and mentors. The organization is open to anyone regardless of their educational background, gender, sexual orientation, race or nationality. They aim to create an environment where any person interested in supporting women scientists feels welcome.

Key Takeaways Message

  1. Young Age – start having interest in STE(A)M at a really young age.
  2. Career Paths are important – don’t just get female students into universities but also into higher level executive positions. Don’t just study STE(A)M but also have a career trajectory.
  3. Flexibility in the STE(A)M field is also essential.

Shirley Kotian, Vice President for WICCI

Shirley is a Full Stack Engineer, Rakuten Group Inc and Vice President for Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (WICCI).

Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WICCI) is a premier National Business Chamber for Women envisioning Global Impact for Women Entrepreneurs, Businesswomen and Professionals from all walks of life. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks.

Key Takeaways Message

Steps towards equity in tech:

  1. Education (at any age) – intentionally provide girls with opportunities to discover their passion in tech.
  2. Returnships – women naturally have breaks in their career path e.g maternity leave.
  3. Equitable Compensation – by making sure women are paid just as much for the same job.
  4. Role Models – 3 in 4 women who stayed in tech careers had role models.

Steps for women to reach the top in tech

  1. Make your ambition known – discuss your goals with your managers and mentors.
  2. Raise your hand for advancement opportunities even if you don’t fully meet the qualifications.
  3. Reach out within and outside your organization for opportunities to broaden your skill set. 
  4. Ensure that you are maintaining long term relationships with your mentors and lean on them for support.
  5. Emphasize your accomplishments, technical and otherwise, and ask managers for direct and concrete feedback on leadership skills. 

Ways to Be a Better Male Ally

  1. Advocate – advocate for gender equitable policies in the workplace.
  2. Reflect – reflect on your own power and privilege as a man.
  3. Celebrate – publicly celebrate accomplishments.
  4. Encourage – mentorship by recognizing their strengths to accelerate professional growth.

Kani Munidasa, Co-Founder & CEO of Code Chrysalis

As an executive at EMC (now Dell EMC), Greenplum, and Pivotal Labs, Kani helped industry leaders transform the way they build software, drive customer success, innovate, and disrupt businesses across industries in multiple geographies.

Their mission at Code Chrysalis is to create software engineering leaders in Japan. However they soon learnt that diversity in tech was non-existent in Japan, therefore set it out to be their mission to diversify the tech industry in Japan and empower women in tech careers. They are doing this through creating a pipeline of women that can join their engineering bootcamp. They wholeheartedly believe that getting women more involved in engineering and contributing their ideas is key to the advancement of technology and the betterment of the world.

Key Takeaway Message

When you limit the range of perspectives and experiences, you limit the quality of the subsequent result, product, or decision.

Sasha Kaverina, Community Builder at Le Wagon Tokyo

Sasha is a journalist and community builder at Le Wagon Tokyo, the world’s most acclaimed coding bootcamp. She organized 70+ tech and startup events in Tokyo, and actively promotes gender diversity in tech as a WomenTech Network global ambassador.

Le Wagon helps students re-invent their career with technology, through immersive bootcamps in Web Development and Data Science. 

Key Takeaways Message

Steps to making a difference:

  1. Events and Content – encouraging women to gain technical skills and found companies.
  2. Meaningful Scholarships – working with companies to give full or partial scholarships to women who want to learn to code.

Rapid Fire Q&A

We also had a dynamic panel discussion about the role of universities for changing the pipeline and changing the norms about who can be a leader in STE(A)M, the roles of private sectors and coding schools in changing pipelines and filling the gaps created by the public system. The panel also discussed best hiring practices to encourage diversity and the space of diplomacy through chambers of commerce. 

FEW Japan would like to thank all 5 panelists and their organizations, Réjeanne Aimey, Founding Director of Black Engineers of Canada, Dr Sarah K. Abe, Advisor of Women in Science in Japan, Shirley Kotian, Vice President for WICCI, Kani Munidasa, Co-Founder & CEO of Code Chrysalis and Sasha Kaverina, Community Builder at Le Wagon Tokyo for sharing their insights on what can be done to foster a more open culture and diversity-positive environment. We would also like to thank our co branding partners, WomEnpowered International, Lawyers for LGBT & Allies Network (LLAN), Femmes Actives Japon, Sisterhood Japan and MEETING 15 for their solidarity and support in our event celebrating women’s empowerment.