U.S. Legislators Discuss Leadership Skills with TOMODACHI Program Participants
On September 3, 2013, twenty TOMODACHI Women’s Leadership Program mentors and mentees participated in a breakfast discussion with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Representative Daniel Benishek (R-MI), Representative Terrycina Sewell (D-AL), and Representative Grace Meng (D-NY).
Embassy Tokyo Charge d’Affaires Kurt Tong welcomed the Senators and Representatives to Tokyo and stressed the importance of providing mentorship opportunities in his opening remarks. TOMODACHI Initiative Executive Director Laura Abbot highlighted the development of programs that will expand the scope of the organization’s mission to support the next generation of leaders. A mentor and mentee from the Women’s Leadership Program briefly shared their experiences, describing what they have learned from one another thus far in the program and how they have been inspired by other program participants.
Embassy Tokyo Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer Joy Sakurai led a panel discussion with the Senators and Representatives on their thoughts about mentorship and women’s leadership. When asked about the most important traits for success, Senator Hirano emphasized the importance of risk-taking. Senator Gillibrand urged participants to find issues they are passionate about then make sure their voices are heard. Representative Sewell advised for participants to “bloom where you are planted” and be proactive about their career choices. Representative Benishek explained the importance of kindness and listening to those around you. Representative Meng spoke about the importance of mentorship, and about the need to blaze your own path. Following a 30-minute panel discussion, U.S. legislators engaged in a candid Q&A session with program participants.
The TOMODACHI Women’s Leadership Program pairs 20 Japanese university students with 20 mid-level career professionals to develop a long-lasting mentor-mentee relationship. Current program participants have been paired for discussions and events taking place from June 2013 to March 2014.