On Wednesday, September 21st, JASSW and JBA co-hosted Business Roundtable 2016: Empowerment of Women in the beautiful Bellevue City Hall Council Chambers. Our accomplished panel of business leaders each presented their stories and strategies for equalizing the gender gap in both the US and Japan, then engaged with the audience in a Q&A session. Although each panelist was speaking to the same message of women’s empowerment in the workplace, not one presentation was the same. Each speaker brought their own perspective to the different problems faced by women in the workforce. After welcoming remarks from Dale Watanabe (Executive Director, JASSW), Takeshi Katsurada (President, Japan Business Association of Seattle), and Consul General Masahiro Omura,  Corporate Chief Ethics Officer at Prudential Financial Inc. Royanne Doi started us off with the keynote presentation. She outlined the overall trends in hiring practices in Japan and how they have traditionally been unwelcoming towards women trying to entire the workforce. She debunked some gender myths and also spoke to the changing gender roles in Japan and how equality for women benefits both men and women. She also referred to Prime Minister Abe’s “Womenomics” agenda and how that’s helping increase women in leadership positions in Japan.

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Margaret Arakawa, General Manager of Windows and Devices Marketing at Microsoft, then took us through her presentation that not only told us about her as a person, but what everybody can do to build better teams around themselves: don’t be afraid to be personal, don’t be shy, and have a plan! (Plus many other strategies and adorable photos of her son.) Toray Composites’ Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Nobuyuki Odagiri, talked about the societal impediments that make it difficult for women in Japan and why things are changing for the better. Although there are challenges, Japanese companies such as Toray are willing to rise to the occasion.

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Tisa Jackson, Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion Practice Management at Microsoft, brought her years of experience in the field and talked about how much better companies with diversity fare. She brought up how important it is to broaden hiring practices and how companies can reach out to otherwise marginalized populations such as people of color, women, differently abled people, LGBT+, and veterans. The Q&A session brought the panel to a close and there was a social reception to close the event. Throughout the night, Jill Nishi, Director of the Office of the President and Chief of Staff at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, contributed her comments and thoughts as moderator, adding her own personal insight to the conversation.

We had a magnificent time and learned a lot, and it is our sincerest hope that everyone walked away with new strategies for bridging the gender gap! For more pictures of the event, please see our facebook gallery!

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Photo Credits: Tom Kohler and Japan-America Society of the State of Washington

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