Meet the Forbes Japan Women of 2016

Recognizing Female Leaders

By The Savvy Team
December 30, 2016

The magazine Forbes Japan finally created a business and achievement award for women. Here’s who got the first wins — and what Savvy thinks about the event.

In a ceremony held in Tokyo’s Odaiba district earlier this month, business magazine Forbes Japan in cooperation with LiB, a Tokyo-based, female employment agency, announced the winners of their Japan Women Award 2016. The first of its kind in the (still short) history of the Japanese edition of the American magazine, the award recognized female entrepreneurs and companies working to promote gender equality.  

Forbes Japan Women Award 2016 recipients pose together. From left to right: Takako Akimoto (second left), Rie Endo, Yasuka Toda, Yuki Hasegawa, Kotomi Takagi, Keiko Tashiro, Yoshino Kajitani, Haruka Yoshimoto and Sayuri Daimon.

The award was divided into three categories: 10 individual awards, 39 company awards and nine special section awards recognizing companies who have established exceptional norms toward promoting empowerment and leadership.

Recipients were selected based on surveys about working conditions conducted by human resource managers and female respondents from 1,000 Japanese companies. There was also an online vote open to the public and final screening by a committee comprised of board members from participating companies.

Here are the women that were recognized.

From left to right: Forbes Japan Editor-in-Chief Makoto Takano, Haruka Yoshimoto, Yuki Hasegawa, Sayuri Daimon, Takako Akimoto, Rie Endo, Kotomi Takagi, Yasuka Toda, Yoshino Kajitani, Lib CEO Yusuke Matsumoto

1. Takako Akimoto, Sekusui House  

Currently serving as the manager of the Sekisui House technical department, Akimoto is an established architect who has nearly 30 years experience working in the housing sector. A member of several influential organizations, including the International Association for Universal Design and the Kids Design Association, Akimoto plays a key role in the company’s smart housing development. She bases her project designs on simplicity and usefulness by addressing social issues such as children safety and care for the elderly.

2. Rie Endo, Crazy Wedding

The head of Crazy’s wedding department, Crazy Wedding, Endo founded the company’s precursor, United Style, together with two of her best friends at the age of 28. A mother who has experienced the anxiety of juggling a full-time job and raising a child, she has introduced various policies to support working mothers — including one-month-long paid vacations for all staff members and the ability to bring children to work. Endo is currently working to expand her business to overseas weddings.

3. Sayuri Daimon, The Japan Times

The first female managing editor in the national English newspaper’s 120-year-old history, Daimon began her career at the paper at a time when journalism was even more of a boys’ club that it is today. An alumna of Sophia University and a reporter and editor with over 25 years of experience, she joined The Japan Times in 1991, Daimon won the prestigious Nieman fellowship at Harvard University in 2000 and is the author of Harvard de katarareru Sekai Senryaku (Diplomatic Strategies Discussed at Harvard).” A mother herself, Daimon has contributed to creating a more family-friendly work environment at the paper by implementing flexible working shifts, enabling employees with children to spend time at home.  

4. Yasuko Toda, Rika Denshi Group

Toda assumed the position of president and CEO of electronic parts manufacturer Rika Denshi Group in 2015 at the age of 27, only two years after she had joined the company. An alumna of Sophia University and a former study abroad student in the U.S., Toda intends to revamp the old-style way of the 55-year-old firm’s corporate mindset by implementing a more modern and family-friendly style of management.

5. Yuki Hasegawa, Omron

Hasegawa is a development manager at electronics maker Omron and is a key member of the research team focusing on optical character recognition (OCR). In Sept. 2016 she participated as a panelist at Girls in Tech Japan, an organization focused on the empowerment, entrepreneurship, engagement and education of women in technology.

6. Kotomi Takagi, P&G Japan

Currently the head of P&G Japan’s Shiga factory, Takagi is the first female to ever undertake a factory head position in the company’s history. Apart from managing the plant, she is also in charge of training and educating new staff members. She is the chairman of the Shiga Cosmetic Industry Association and is regularly conducts public forums on women’s empowerment at the workplace.

Yuki Hasegawa, right, Takako Akimoto, center, and Kotomi Takagi, left, receive their Forbes Japan Women Award 2016.

7. Keiko Tashiro, Daiwa Securities

Keiko Tashiro was appointed the senior executive managing director of Daiwa Securities, Japan’s second-largest brokerage, in April 2016 after working with the company for 30 years. Prior to her current position, she served as managing director and head of Daiwa Capital Markets America and as its deputy head of overseas operations. Tashiro was the first woman to be named a director of the company.

8. Takuko Sawada, Shionogi

Takuko Sawada became the first female at pharmaceutical manufacturer Shionogi to ever be appointed as a senior executive officer and general manager. She has had a long interest in bringing innovative medicines to the market, improving R&D efficiency and globalization, as well as actively promoting a better female-friendly work environment. Since she assumed her position in 2011, she has managed to significantly increase the percentage of female employees in managerial positions within the company.

9. Yoshino Kajitani, Shimadzu International

Kajitani is the first woman to assume become CEO at Shimadzu International, a Kyoto-based trading company. Kajitani joined Shimadzu in 1984, where she worked at the import and trading department until 1997, when Shimadzu International was established. She assumed the top position in 2014.

10. Haruka Yoshimoto, Parco City

Yoshimoto is the HR manager at Parco City, one of Japan’s largest department store chains, Yoshimoto has years of experience as a working mother in various sectors. After giving birth to her first child when she was still a freshman at Waseda University, Yoshimoto completed her degree and began working at a PR agency and later as a secretary, becoming the only working mother on her team at the time. Now 37, she is also a member of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)’s Diversity Management Selection Committee.

Savvy Says…

The Forbes Japan Women Award 2016 doesn’t include women working in NGOs, activists, politicians, writers, celebrities involved in humanitarian activities or actresses who have played strong role models or had a strong positive influence on women. It still represents a very small fraction of all women fighting on  the front lines to change the gender status quo in Japan. We would like to see a wider variety of women working on the global front and promoting Japan at its best internationally — journalists or writers, for example. It was also disappointing to see the drastic difference between the Forbes Startup of the Year Award (which did not have a single woman) for 2017 and 2016 — both ceremonies our team had an opportunity to attend. In our minds, the Japan Women Award 2016 is only a modest attempt at what Forbes could do to celebrate Japanese women who push the gender barriers in Japan. 

Nevertheless, the award is definitely a step forward in promoting women’s achievements here and providing real public support for their activities. We certainly shouldn’t forget that Japan was ranked 111th in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap index — a drop of 10 places from the previous year’s 101 ranking.

Congratulations to all of the women recognized this year and we look forward to a more lavish and publicized event in 2017.

For a more detailed version of this article, including winners of the business category, see Japan Today’s article here.

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