Tag Archives: Japan

Womenomics in Japan: a discussion on women in leadership

Guest post by Mika Shimazu, Foster undergraduate and Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) student

On August 6, I attended a lunch discussion at Perkins Coie on the topic of Womenomics in Japan. This event, launched by the U.S. Japan Council, is part of the new networking series funded by the Embassy of Japan to foster conversations relating to women’s leadership in Japan. As a member of the CISB Japanese Track and a female considering jobs in Japan, I found this topic to be an optimal opportunity to familiarize myself with the current situation.

The main question for discussion was “what is the current situation of women in the business world in Japan, and how can we encourage more women to remain in the workplace?”

Since elected in December 2012, Prime Minister Abe has worked to stimulate the Japanese economy through his economic policy, Abenomics. As a developed country with an aging population and decreasing birth rate, Japan will soon face a shortage of workers. Womenomics is part of Abenomic’s third arrow, structural reform.

Through group discussions we acknowledged that Japan has a skilled, educated population of women in the workplace. However, these women often quit their jobs after having children and many who remain often do not bear children. Although the government is making reforms in policies and increasing facilities to support mothers, we agreed that there was a tremendous cultural barrier to this issue. In Japan, it is the norm for women to be housewives, taking care of the family and chores, while the men work and provide for the family. In addition, there is a norm to “raise your own children,” and hiring babysitters and nannies is often looked down upon. Moreover, in this aging population, women may be in the middle of taking care of their children as well as looking after their elderly family members.

Observing the current situation, we concluded that the cultural barrier will be the significant struggle for Japan. Some suggested to start making cultural changes in smaller and more innovative companies, such as start-ups, IT companies, and non-profits. Others proposed allowing the couples to decide how to distribute their paid leaves between the mother and the father. Although the solution is still unclear, we were able to promote awareness and encourage conversations about the future of women in the Japanese business world.

Reflections on the Japanese healthcare system

This post was written by Management Professor and Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking Executive Director Bruce Avolio.

Bruce AvolioMy trip to Japan this past week, brought me first to Kyoto, then to Osaka and Tokyo. Kyoto is the City of Temples and Shrines, over a thousand, much of which are all in wonderful condition. The purpose of my trip, was to do a keynote presentation to senior Japanese leaders in the healthcare field, on the transformation that is underway in healthcare around the globe. I also conducted a day-long workshop for middle to senior leaders in the healthcare industry, more focused on advancing leadership development in individuals, teams and organizations.

If you have never been to Japan, go! The Japanese are perhaps the best hosts on earth. They delight in making things easy for you and showing you their country.

Intermingled among the work related events, we had opportunities to visit very interesting shrines where Shoguns sat in court governing regions of the nation back in the mid 1800s. We learned about their culture and styles of leadership. One style that was very disconcerting to me, as I am always late to everything, was that if you were late to a meeting with the Shogun, by a minute, and that was after traveling months to get there, it was time to say goodbye to your comrades. There were very strict codes of behavior in terms of who sat where in meeting the Shoguns, and even more strict
when meeting the Emperor.

In advance of my trip, I read up a lot on the Japanese healthcare system. Like most modern systems, it was based on Bismarck’s model in Germany of a more centrally controlled system. But unlike say Canada and the U.K., the primary involvement from government is in setting prices for everything from 4 stitches to an MRI. The costs are kept very low, such as $105 for a night in a hospital, any hospital.

BookScanCenter_2In the USA, that would be comparable to a hotel on the freeway for one night, certainly not our top hospitals, where rooms run into the thousands per night. The rigid cost structure is transparent, and everyone has to follow it, no exceptions. So, it is hard to run a healthcare business in Japan and be profitable, but everyone is covered, and the quality of care is good, based on Japan having the highest life expectancy rate, and lowest infant mortality rate in the world among other statistics. The Japanese can get into see their doctors usually in a day or two, and that can include top specialists. Japanese typically go to their physicians regularly resulting in better preventative care. And there are few if any lawsuits, and no one goes bankrupt in Japan due to medical bills.

Yet, all is not perfect of course. The system is struggling financially with low costs and an increasingly older population. Moreover, while I was in Japan, there was a series of stories of a surgeon who had killed a number of patients over a several year time span, and it appeared many knew he was incompetent, but challenging a senior physician is difficult to do in a culture like Japan. One article termed it a problem with leadership, that should have intervened to stop this surgeon. I would add a problem with organizational culture, not unlike we see in the US in terms of similar incidents.

In the end, we started some potential fruitful relationships between our school and the healthcare leaders in Japan, and going back to Japan in the near future, seems like a great possibility. Between the hospitality, food and beautiful cities and countryside, it seems like a great place to strike up a collaboration.

A view of Japan from the top: event with Former US Ambassador to Japan, John Roos

Guest post  by Nick Dwyer, Foster MBA Candidate, 2016

Before enrolling in the full-time MBA program at the Foster School this fall, I often heard full-time business students characterized as “day students”. But with the vast number of engaging presentations, speakers’ series, networking opportunities and other evening events at our disposal, I now realize this was a misnomer. While I’m not currently taking any evening classes, my on-campus education rarely ceases before 6PM.  Perhaps my most notable example is the evening of November 20th, when I had the opportunity to hear from the former US ambassador to Japan, John Roos.

tateuchi_2014-roos-062
Ambassador Roos came to the Foster School as part of the Tateuchi Foundation Asian Business Distinguished Speaker Lecture, a series of annual speeches by business leaders focused on presenting US-Japan business opportunities.

By partnering with the Tateuchi Foundation, we can honor the legacy of Mr. Tateuchi’s business success and further the Foundation’s goals of promoting international understanding, knowledge, and relations.

The event is made possible by the Tateuchi Foundation, a family foundation charged with building bridges of understanding between the United States and Japan. Given this mission, its unlikely there is a more fitting presenter than John Roos, who served in his role as ambassador to Japan from 2009 to 2013.

One of the most interesting points of Ambassador Roos’ presentation was his atypical professional background for an ambassador. Unlike most American ambassadors to Japan, John Roos never held a significant public office before his ambassadorship and was not a political figure in Washington, DC.  Before Japan, Roos was a lawyer in Silicon Valley, where as CEO he led a premier technology law firm.

He explained that he was such an outsider that his wife quipped that he “didn’t have a chance in hell” before formally receiving his nomination for the post. But his less than common background was appealing to President Obama, who appreciated his experience in technology and innovation and his understanding of Asia-Pacific business. “But most of all, it was just a matter of trust” Roos confirmed.

tateuchi_2014-roos-120As someone who has always been interested with the economy of Japan, I particularly enjoyed watching Ambassador Roos interact with Japanese students in the Q&A part of the evening. What emerged was a major difference of opinion between the state and potential future of Japan. Several students commented they felt pessimistic about the future of Japan, given the weak economy, the high population loss, and the high national debt. Ambassador Roos reminded them that Japan is still the third largest economy in the world and that 90% of the world would trade places with them. When asked what is the best characteristic of Japanese business, Roos stated that “quality and attention to detail permeate the whole society” and there is a very high level of service, which can continue to drive the Japanese business.  He also sees the Japanese business culture beginning to address its lack of entrepreneurial thinkers and businesses, which will be key for future economic growth.

While Japanese business was a major conversation point for the evening, Roos also discussed a number of geopolitical issues, including the thorny relationship between Okinawa and the United States, the dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, and North Korean threat to Japan. He also described the biggest challenge of his ambassadorship; the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami. The link between national security and economic wellbeing was not lost on the ambassador, as he frequently pivoted between both topics.

In all, Ambassador Roos painted a complex yet optimistic picture of Japan and Japanese businesses. His belief in the country is illustrated by his current position on the board of directors at Japan’s largest electronics company, Sony. While Japan has to overcome it’s shrinking population and stiff competition, his ambassadorship allowed him to see up close what makes Japan so dynamic.

While I certainly don’t wish to underestimate my daytime classes and activities, Ambassador Roos certainly demonstrated that learning about global business doesn’t necessarily slow when the sun sets at Paccar Hall.

 

Japan update: opportunities for 2014 and beyond

Guest post by Ashley Bozeman, senior studying international business and marketing

7C5A3151On Thursday, October 17, I and other students and faculty from the University of Washington had the privilege of enjoying the “Japan Update: Opportunities for 2014 and Beyond” discussion with Koichi Hamada, Tuntex Professor of Economics, Yale University, and Joseph A. Massey, Professor Emeritus, Dartmouth College. Both are esteemed professors with years of international business and economic policy experience. Needless to say, I think many of us Certificate of International Studies in Business (CISB) students were a bit intimidated. I am happy to report that they were far from intimidating; they had everyone laughing throughout and left all of us inspired and optimistic for the future of Japan.

This event was a great eye-opener to some of the problems Japan is currently facing. We had the opportunity to learn from Professor Hamada, Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Abe, and Professor Massey about possible solutions for strengthening the Japanese economy. Professor Hamada shared that one of the major challenges in Japan today is its aging population. Japan has the oldest population in the world. Consequently, the workforce is declining. Professor Massey stated that the solution should not be an attempt to make up for the decreasing population, but rather an increase in productivity and an adjustment of Japanese cultural norms. Both of our guests touched on better utilizing well-educated women in the work force and working until an older age. Both of which can be done, but will take time and challenge current cultural norms.

Our speakers also discussed business opportunities in Japan due to these demographic changes. The two main opportunities were health care and child care. The population is aging, so health care will be a hugely important and growing sector. In order for more women to pursue higher education and enter the workforce, it is necessary to have more child care opportunities so they are able to work outside the home.

I was impressed by Professor Hamada and Professor Massey’s optimism and their proposed solutions and opportunities for Japan in the coming years. I now have a greater awareness of the Japanese economy and culture and am looking forward to keeping up with the country’s progress in the future.

Global entrepreneurship: rewards & challenges

Guest post by Maria Reyes, CISB student Saito 1

As a graduating senior I am often asked what the highlight of my business school career was. The response? The people I’ve met through the Michael G. Foster School of Business.

One of the most inspiring individuals I’ve met is William Saito. Internationally, he’s renowned for his work in encryption, authentication, and biometric technology. Today, he runs InTecur, a consultancy in Japan that helps companies identify and develop applications and markets for innovative technologies.

On May 9th, he came to the Foster School of Business to deliver a talk titled “Global Entrepreneurship: Rewards & Challenges.” I came expecting to learn just about starting a business, but Mr. Saito delivered that and beyond. He shared challenges in penetrating Japanese markets using American venture strategies and was humble in sharing what worked and what didn’t work, how he learned from his mistakes, and the importance of giving back once you are successful.

What I personally received from his talk is the drive to become an innovator during my internship in Tokyo, Japan. For those who are unfamiliar with the Japanese business culture, it is very uniform and male dominated, which is a challenging environment for a woman let alone a foreigner like me. Prior to meeting Mr. Saito, I felt pressured to conform to the Japanese norms. When I expressed my concerns about Japanese business culture to him one-on-one, he challenged me to break my own preconceived notions and be innovative by utilizing my unique background to help grow the company rather than work under it. I will never forget his words and will continue to think of them after graduation. I hope to one day inspire others to be innovative like Mr. Saito does.