Developing Women Leaders: Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative

Developing Women Leaders: Japanese Women’s Leadership Initiative

 {Photo credit: Sylvia Vriesondorp/MSH.}2014 JWLI Fellows meet with Atsuko Fish (seated, in red coat) and Belkis Giorgis, MSH’s global technical lead on gender (seated at laptop). From right: Yuka Matsushima, Yumiko Nagai, Mito Ikemizu, Kozue Sawame (Fish Family Foundation), Megumi Ishimoto.Photo credit: Sylvia Vriesondorp/MSH.

“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.

Four 2014 JWLI fellows, Yumiko Nagai, Yuka Matsushima, Megumi Ishimoto and Mito Ikemizu, emerged as the winners of this year’s rigorous selection process. They spent the month of September exploring best practices of successful nonprofit management in the Boston area. This year MSH was one of those organizations. For one and a half days the JWLI fellows, accompanied by Fish Family Foundation program manager Kozue Sawame, met with some of MSH’s female leaders including Dr. Belkis Giorgis, MSH Global Technical Lead on Gender, to discuss topics ranging from mentoring networks to NGO financial practices, fundraising, advocacy, management and leadership practices, conflict in organizations, and more. They emerged from the JWLI training with practical plans in hand that can help them make a difference in Japan.

A first-generation American from Japan, Fish shares what she has learned in the US about the role of nonprofit organizations for bringing about social change so that all people, immigrants and natives alike, have a chance to develop their talents and contribute to society. Fish, a former member of the Management Sciences for Health (MSH) Board of Directors, has received recognition from both Japan and the US—from presidents and prime ministers—for taking on social change challenges.

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