Special Guest Mrs. Akie Abe Inpsire Participants of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program at the Final Conference in Tokyo
On Saturday, May 30, 82 Japanese female leaders gathered at the Cerulean Hotel in Shibuya, full of energy and excitement. They celebrated their accomplishments and reflected with their peers, mentors and mentees on their last ten months as participants of the TOMODACHI MetLife Women’s Leadership Program. The one day conference included distinguished professionals such as MetLife Insurance K.K. Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, President and Representative Statutory Executive Officer Sachin Shah, Lumina Learning’s Elizabeth Handover, Kathy Matsui from Goldman Sachs, Kumi Fujisawa from Think Tank SophiaBank. The group was honored to welcome Japan’s First Lady Mrs. Akie Abe. This conference served as an opportunity to openly discuss the accomplishments and goals of the program participants and hear from inspiring speakers.
Elizabeth Handover began the day with a leadership workshop stressing the importance of believing in oneself as a leader in a world that is not female friendly (yet). She presented the idea of “competing commitments”, which are commitments which leaders inevitably must juggle. “Negative assumptions about ourselves become competing commitments. Let’s bust those assumptions.” As women rise further in the ranks of leadership and power, she reminded the participants to believe they are worthy of being listened to, and to walk into their meetings with heads held high. “If you feel strong, people will notice, and they will listen to you. Be confident.”
Kathy Matsui is Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan and is recognized as a distinguished leader in her field. How did she get to where she is today? She said having a smooth path to success is a common misconception, for in reality there are always obstacles along the way. She said if you ask any successful professional if their career path has been linear, they would absolutely deny it. But she highlighted the significance of these challenges, for they are what help people grow, both personally and professionally. Perhaps Ms. Matsui’s obstacles are what made her become the successful woman she is today.
There was generous applause as Mrs. Abe approached the podium for her presentation. Her poise radiated as she voiced some of her own thoughts on feminism and the future for female leadership. She reminded the participants to cherish their valuable feminine qualities such as generosity, flexibility and elegance. She also challenged women to aspire to reach their full potential as leaders without making sacrifices.
At the start of the program last fall, 41 Japanese university women were paired with 41 female professionals to encourage networking and teamwork, coming together from Tokyo, Naha, Osaka and Fukuoka. Participants attended group sessions hosted by the U.S. Embassy and consulates to receive training in financial empowerment and leadership in the professional world. On their ten-day trip to the United States, they visited Washington, D.C. and New York City where they met with individuals such as Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard among many other accomplished leaders. This conference provided an opportunity for mentors and mentees to reflect on their journey and hear from professionals from around the world. The young mentees now have the tools to pursue their careers, and the mentors have been rejuvenated by their mentees. They are now legacies of the TOMODACHI Generation, and have set the bars high for the 2015-2016 participants.
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