How You Can Be an Instrument of Change
My passion for supporting women started early in my career, while I was working for Marubeni, and continued to develop throughout my time with General Electric (GE) and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC). I became aware of the glass ceiling that faced women from my first day on the job, but I understood it even more when traveling to Japan for business.
At GE, I realized that the unconscious bias I experienced in Japan was a global challenge, which led me to my passion: Supporting working women. I volunteered for GE’s Women’s Network, and later became one of its network leaders.
After I joined SMBC, I leveraged Prime Minister Abe’s focus on supporting working women in Japan as a catalyst to build a women’s network within SMBC, using GE’s best practices and lessons learned.
I engaged management and inspired senior women to support the Women’s Inclusion Network at SMBC. We now have a successful women’s network, which has led to the creation of our mentoring program, raised awareness of gender issues, provided networking and development opportunities for women, and highlighted diversity and inclusion opportunities. I have been part of expanding diversity and women’s empowerment globally across SMBC by partnering with colleagues to develop similar diversity initiatives in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
Refocusing and changing organizations to focus on gender parity and diversity is beneficial for strong organizations, but comes with opportunities and challenges. I’ve shared several thoughts about what it took to inspire an understanding of and focus around diversity at SMBC:
- Believe in what you are trying to do and, remember, change is daunting. Be an instrument of change, seize the opportunity to inspire, and use this to support your career.
- You can’t do it all yourself. Teamwork is critical for success around diversity: Have the right teams and management support. Leverage your internal networks, and inspire executives, as well as all employees, to get involved and support the initiative.
- Get data to show where there are improvement opportunities to tell you that you are not alone; also get data to indicate that what you’re doing is successful.
- Wake up every day with a positive feeling, as this is the key to inspiring others. With one step forward, be prepared to take five steps back. You will feel like you’re hitting your head against the wall or ceiling, but remember, you are making a difference.