“Japanese women could be a tremendous force for social change—in Japan and elsewhere,” said Atsuko Fish, Trustee of the Fish Family Foundation in Boston. “But, few have the confidence and skills to take on leadership roles.”
In 2006, three visionary women leaders, Fish; Mary Lassen, past president and Chief Executive Officer of the Women's Union in Boston; and Catherine Crone Coburn, former president of MSH, founded The Japanese Women‘s Leadership Initiative (JWLI). They created a pilot project designed to provide women from Japan four weeks of direct experience and training with successful nonprofit organizations in Boston. Training areas included domestic violence, elder care, child care, and women‘s leadership and empowerment. That same year, Simmons College became their academic partner.