FEW Shinnenkai Social – Recap

January 2022 Sponsor's Meeting-event poster placeholder

Off to a Roaring Start to 2022

The FEW Japan Shinnenkai took place online, providing an opportunity for everyone to meet the wonderful Organizational and Corporate Sustaining Members who support FEW Japan, and to hear their insights on a variety of pertinent topics.

After welcoming everyone to the first meeting in the year of the tiger – and  FEW Japan’s 40th anniversary year – President Jackie Steele noted that digital communications continue to be the norm for FEW Japan during the ongoing pandemic. This bring with it the “silver lining” of allowing members all over Japan – and even overseas – to participate. In turn, this has led to a deepening of ties among members, boding well for a successful year ahead. She then called on representatives from the corporate members to introduce themselves, along with what support looks like for women at their respective organization.

Meet the Corporate Members!

Corporate Sustaining Members:

Volkswagen Group Japan KK – Yuko Ozaki (General Manager, HR)

It has been a busy and exciting start to the new year for Yuko and her colleagues, with the recent corporate reorganization that has seen four brands (Volkswagen, Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini) come together under a single legal entity. While acknowledging that much work lies ahead, Yuko is looking forward to upholding the corporation’s principles of diversity and inclusion, including exploring new ways to support and empower their female team members.

Jarman International KK – Sarah Achilles (Consultant and Freelance Translator)

Founded by FEW member Ruth Marie Jarman in 2012, the goal of Jarman International KK  is to showcase unique and niche content to internationals in Japan and abroad, while offering a global viewpoint to Japanese regions, business and organizations. Sarah noted that around 80% of the diverse team who contribute to Jarman are women, including mothers and internationals, many of whom work on a freelance basis.

Organizational Members:

Place to Grow – Angela Ortiz (CEO/NPO Founder)

Angela is based in Miyagi and has witnessed the devasting effect of the 2011 Tohoku disaster. For almost a decade her 100% volunteer-led NPO has been connecting people in affected communities, with workshops and programs for children, parents and local leaders. A majority of the volunteers are women. Inspired by her own  positive experience, Angela encourages the volunteers to join FEW in order to tap into the resources they need to empower themselves and to fulfill their goals.

JMEC (Japan Market Expansion Competition) – Betsy Rogers (Assistant Program Director)

The JMEC program is centered around a business plan writing competition, and offers participants invaluable opportunities to receive advice and mentoring from a variety of business professionals and entrepreneurs. Participants learn what it takes to launch their own business or to evolve within their organization, building their confidence and skills. Betsy noted that many FEW members have met with success after honing their business and personal skills with JMEC, including through annual scholarships provided by JMEC.

Code Chrysalis – Yan Fan (CTO and Co-Founder)

With a corporate mission to advocate for innovation through diversity and inclusion, Code Chrysalis conducts software engineering boot camps in Tokyo to help individuals and companies to upskill. Yan explained that Code Chrysalis has hit “traditional markers” for growth, such as starting a nursery and creating a safe environment for non-binary and transgender employees. The next step is undertaking surfacing sessions to ensure that everyone is heard and to look into ways they can continue to learn and grow as a corporation.

TBSJ (Translation Business Systems Japan) – Sarah Bull (Director)

TBSJ provides translation  technology services to a diverse range of clients, including global corporations. Sarah has noticed an exciting trend towards increased need for translation in the technology field, including AI projects. She is proud of the flexible work culture that TSBJ has created for its employees. This is particularly pertinent for women as they pivot and adjust their work hour to balance other needs, such as caring for family members and pursuing educational opportunities.

Wahl+Case – Kristine Ayuzawa (Director, People Operations)

Wahl+Case is the recruitment division of EQIQ, a  professional services and HR tech company. As befits a firm that works closely with the tech industry and start-ups, Kristine explained how Wahl+Case strives to foster a culture of opportunities for team members, particularly women. In a nutshell, the focus is on “nurturing the total person”, both in and out of the workplace. Flexibility and a high level of trust paves the way for others, encouraging them to think about their own needs.

Two members were unable to participate in person:

Catherine O’Connell (Principal and Founder, Catherine O’Connell Law) sent her best wishes to everyone. Drawing on more than three decades of legal and business experience  in Japan, the bilingual lawyer started her own firm in 2018 and offers clients a diverse range of options to suit their legal needs.

Last but certainly not least, participants watched part of an engaging video contributed by Ayanna Coleman (Founder, Quill Shift), who is now based in Germany. She shared her professional journey, describing how she pivoted from a career in publishing to creating her own boutique consulting agency, with a social focus on empowering women and  minority-owned businesses.  

Mini Panels: Insights From Our Corporate Members

Participants were then directed to join one of two breakout rooms, where the corporate members responded to several questions about their originations. Highlights included:

Many large companies have CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) set up. What are your CSR activities? Is FEW a part of your CSR?

TBSJ: They are still building up their activities as a small start up, with many female team members. Sarah is the sole woman on the Board, but the rest of the board embraced FEW’s mission once she explained about FEW’s community.

-Jarman: Although tech and AI tools are improving, it cannot replace humans for context and project-specific translation, and so human input is still required for polished translation.

-Code Chrysalis: While there is no dedicated CSR department, this concept is embedded into the company’s DNA: Companies can build impact into every action they undertake. Code Chrysalis are always open to collaborative conversations with other groups in the community.

Does your organization have any DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) initiatives? If so, how can we as FEW support them?

-Wahl+Case: They have an ERG (Employee Resource Group) to help build internal awareness, and have invited groups like TELL in for workshops. They want to encourage their team members belonging to FEW to be active, and to keep increasing women in leadership.

-Place to Grow: On the topic of encouraging women to take on leadership roles, Angela recommends surrounding yourself with peers among whom you can freely make mistakes—peer role modelling is a very important tool.

How do you ensure your  product/service is meeting and addressing the diverse needs of women consumers?

-Volkswagen: In a male-dominated field, it is important to empower women and to listen to their voices. There is a lot of work ahead but they are moving in the right direction.

-Code Chrysalis: With an innovative  tech landscape and strong economy, Japan can become a thought leader. Adding more female software engineers into this landscape will have ripple on effects. CC provides funds to facilitate Japanese women to move into tech careers, including the Butterfly Fund, which offers education for single moms.

How do you build a community within your business?

-JMEC: They are associated with 18 chambers of commerce in Japan, with a diverse community of people. Everyone in the community can access and share in the resources, so they are stronger together.

-Volkswagen: They are working to create a community which meets the needs of people from diverse backgrounds and situations.

The evening concluded with all participants mingling in small breakout rooms to network with the corporate members. Attending her very first FEW event was Sonia Kapoor (Senior Manager, Online, Estee Lauder). Following a hectic period in her career, Sonia joined FEW with the goal of investing time in herself. In the spirit of the insights shared at this Shinnenkai, Sonja said she is eager to both learn and to contribute, bringing whatever value she can to the organization.

About the Author of this Recap

Louise George Kittaka

Louise George Kittaka is a bilingual writer, content developer and cross-cultural specialist from New Zealand. She writes for various media platforms, including the Japan Times and the BBC. Her areas of interest include travel, business, education and environmental issues. She has also contributed to numerous EFL textbooks and study materials for the Japanese educational sector, and conducts cross-cultural training programs for families leaving or arriving in Japan on corporate assignments. Louise teaches in the international studies department at Shirayuri Women’s University. In her spare time she enjoys waterfall hunting, going to cake buffets and indulging her passion for the Aliens film franchise.