Yesterday, over 60 people joined us at the WAC in downtown Seattle to learn about and discuss gender equality in the United States and Japan. Powerful woman leaders from the Japan and here in the Pacific Northwest came together to share their experiences and observations around this topic, followed by a lively panel discussion and Q&A session.

Karin Zaugg Black from the Port of Seattle opened and closed the event and the Consul General of Japan in Seattle, Yoichiro Yamada shared his observations comparing rates of women in government leadership in Washington versus Japan, and the importance of having woman participate to create successful governments.

One of our featured speakers was Aiko Doden from NKH world TV. She described her personal experience becoming a leading news commentator in a time when there were very few women in the field. She discussed what it was like to find her own way in an industry where she had no mentors or role models to look to. Her comments made it clear how far Japan has come, but also how far it still has to go. She commented that as long as women make headlines for just showing up and doing the job, then we still have work to do. She also reflected that based on her experiences, a work culture in Japan that encourages and uplifts more women must also be one that allows men to have better work-life balance so that both genders can share the work equally, in the home and in the office.

The event also featured Courney Gregoire, Chief Digital Safety Officer at Microsoft. She shared her experience working both as a commissioner for the Port of Seattle and at Microsoft where she worked on using her lived experiences both professionally and as woman to foster programs such as paid parental leave and the Mamava pods at Seatac Airport. She discussed the importance of bringing all stakeholders into the conversation when trying to make changes and importance of listening to ‘subject experts’ when tackling new problems and initiatives. One example she gave was asking to hear directly from victims of sexual harassment about their lived experiences when working to improve safety for women at port facilities. She emphasized that the best way to keep moving forward and improving is to focus on collaboration.

Lori Matsukawa lead the panel discussion and Q&A which covered topics ranging from how to deal with sexist comments and attitudes in the work place to the role of positive mentors for woman attempting to build a career in their field.

We really enjoyed hearing and learning from these incredible women.