Photo credit: Courtesy of Emb. of Japan
“I went into journalism because it was a period of time where in this country we had Richard Nixon as our president. The corruption that he was involved in was uncovered and there was an impeachment process. A lot of what was discovered was under five journalists of The Washington Post,” former WJLA anchor and former Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, Marriott International Kathleen Matthews told Kedanren Female Executives on a Mission to the United States for The Nobuko Forum Encore hosted by Nobuko Sasae at the residence of the Japanese Ambassador. “I was passionate about the world of journalism in our democracy and that’s what led me to it. I also had financial aid and I had to support myself, so it was also a good career for me to have a pretty reliable salary. I got married, I had three kids and I was very lucky that I went from being a writer to being a producer to being a street reporter going out with my microphone and interviewing people to make a news anchor. One of the things that really worried me in that world was the fact that a television journalist actually had union contracts and prescribed hours. You do a lot of over time but you’re put on a shift, you’re like a shift worker so you know what your hours are going to be usually in advance.”
“For me,” Matthews added, “sometimes I worked from 3 to midnight. Sometimes I worked Wednesdays through sun down. Sometimes I worked 5 am to 2 pm. I had lots of crazy schedules to be able to get the experience and move on. I knew what my schedule was, so that enabled me to make child care arrangements around that schedule. When I was working weekends my husband could take care of the kids on the weekend. I could plan for that mix of my career, but also child care. Meanwhile, I was also moving up pretty steadily and I had income to be able to have somebody move into our house to take care of the kids, especially when I was when I was working 3 to midnight, so I was able to manage it. I think the predictability of my schedule was critical. My husband didn’t have the same predictability. He moved from politics. When I first met him he was a speech writer for Jimmy Carter. Then he moved to being the top aid to the Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill. He had crazy schedules around that. Then he moved into journalism. I always call him the copy cat. He did television news. He also traveled a lot giving speeches in different periods. We both knew … it would’ve been very difficult. For me I think that’s how I was able to balance having three children, a husband with a full time career and my career full time. I didn’t travel because I was in local Washington television. I was a local news anchor. I also think the travel for me would’ve been a tipping point. However, I look back and I see plenty of women in journalism and in television that have traveled and I’m so impressed by how they manage it.”
Predictability seems the crucial key word to which Nobuko agrees. Mrs. Sasae is a conference interpreter and wife of the Japanese Ambassador, Kenichiro Sasae. Her work has taken her all around the world, most recently to the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Annual Meeting in Tokyo, the Nikkei Future of Asia and the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Japan, the COP 10 meeting in Nagoya and the World Economic Form in China. As a working mother of two sons, predictability is of the essence.
Haruno Yoshida’s life as a single parent was more complicated because she traveled a lot and had to learn to balance a lot. As a top executive in KEIDANREN as President & Representative Director, she has over twenty year’s experience as a top female in a male dominated communications industry. In September 2016, at the request of the Prime Minister of Japan, she was appointed to the Council for Regulatory Reform – a Cabinet Office advisory committee for policy and social structural reforms from an economic perspective. Haruno endorses the time saving use of technology to speed up her duties when at home. She recalls her grandmother: “Used to be, in my grandma’s age, they’d have to go to the woods, cut the wood and start cooking the rice for five hours. Now you just push a button and sap….. innovation will make us unique, our life much more efficient. That’s how we get our extra time before we move on to something else for business.”
All agree you need to encourage young women because sometimes they don’t see the opportunities in front of them or are afraid to look up. “When they see you speaking at forums, you can’t underestimate how powerful that is to the women in the audience who are looking up and saying … ‘wow, look at how she handles herself. Look at how she handled that question.’ Woman can see others that have got a talent, a flare, whatever it is, and to encourage them whether it’s regular mentoring, or informal mentoring, or just taking somebody out to coffee and putting a spark in their head about the things that they might be thinking about and going in their future, envisioning that big pie in the sky job.”
Stereotypes get embedded young, so encouragement needs to continue to happen over women’s careers at many stages. “You have fewer people competing for jobs, that puts power in the hands of the workers because you can choose where you go in a job. So, in this country right now, with the whole technology boom, there are new ways to work in Silicon Valley,” added Matthews. “Companies that want to attract the best and the brightest, they have to have free candy all day, free lattes all day, free massages all day, free Hybrid plug ins for their cars. They have to have flexible hours, work at home this day, have group meetings the next day. I mean, there’s a lot of shifts going on, because they know among that whole tech sector, employees are the valued commodity and they can take their skills somewhere else. So, they’re all competing for those kinds of things. Included in that, is flexible hours and the kind of things that make day care on site, free bus service to the job, all of those kinds of things. So, I think you’re going to see more and more, not just women redefining this but men and women of that Millennial age group, redefining some of that nine to nine inflexible workplace. It’s left over from the industrial age, you know? It’s left over from the nineteen fifties when you have women at home and men at the jobs. So, it’s going to take a while, but I think you’re already starting to see it.”