In 2018, we were awarded the highest Eruboshi (‘L Star’) certification from the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare based on the Act on Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workplace.
This wouldn’t have been possible without people like Kaori Kawakami – the youngest people manager in Lendlease’s Japan business. Her journey with us began in 2016, in the male-dominated Telecommunications sector. And this is her story…
Our project has over 170 members in total, but there were only a few female engineers including myself. The situation is similar in the client’s organization. Japan was placed 114th in global gender equality rankings for 2017 and the worst standing among the group of seven major economies. A telco sector is a true representation of that situation.
I am one of the youngest people managers in Lendlease Japan, I am a woman and I work in the telecommunications sector. I would like to share three things I value most in this role.
SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY
When I was offered an opportunity to get promoted as a People Manager, I hesitated. Most of my male colleagues would have said “YES” immediately. There is a common saying in Japan, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”. Standing out easily invites criticism in the Japanese society. Especially when you are young and female. I could easily imagine people saying; “Isn’t it too early for her?”
I turned to my parents for advice. They said, “You don’t need to get promoted, you should get married when you are still young”. It was hard for them to understand why their daughter who is living far away from their hometown and working long hours is not focused on finding a life partner.
I was able to free myself from my inner conflict after the last Asia Conference, a two-day event where more than 100 delegates across Asia get together to exchange ideas and play a part in shaping the business moving forward. I was greatly inspired by the young employees of my generation, both male and female, actively speaking and engaging in lively discussions. I learnt that my company offered such a wonderful environment for so many young female employees.
Opportunities don’t come easily. You need to earn it with hard work. So, when the time comes, don’t hesitate. You should not let a fantastic opportunity get away from you just because you are female or young.
USE YOUR STRENGTH
The first thing I did when assigned to this project was to earn the trust of the General Manager, who was known for his attention to details. I tried to understand his needs and went to his desk every day to report on project status and issues. Using my background and knowledge of quality management, I proposed some actions for improvement, addressing the client’s issues.
The management method I used for an update to the General Manager, was later recognized by the client’s Senior Management team, and adopted as a common management tool across the client’s office. As a result, I earned trust, not only from the client, but also from Lendlease.
Now, I hear less and less people around me say, “It’s too early for her to become a Manager”.
I could not have done this without my team members, encouragement and support. That was the moment when I leveraged on my strength as a woman in my role as Project Manager.
AIM TO BE A ROLE MODEL
It is not rare that I’m the only woman in meetings, youngest of all, and I tend to take a back seat at the beginning. The Japanese saying, “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down”, was stuck in my head, and I could not stand out among others.
My boss is a very good listener, so I could always talk to him, but sometimes it’s so difficult to share the same understanding of what I have been through as a woman.
Now we have a new female graduate in my group. I want to be someone she can turn to for advice when she has the same difficulties I had. Cultivating the new generation of female managers is one of my important missions.
I also want you to know that there is a long way to go. As I said, I am one of 170.
We need to create more opportunities for women. We need to lead the industry and hopefully attract the best people to join Lendlease.