Husband, kids and a multinational business venture, she seems to have it all. Breaking stereotypes and commanding respect in a big man’s world. Today, we’re talking to the brains behind one of the greatest educational ventures of Japan, Lin Kobayashi.
Focusing on our main theme of raising awareness and finding solutions to the problems of gender inequality , we asked her a few questions to which she replied to with utmost honesty. So lets get a sneak peek into Ms. Kobayashi’s life.
What does gender mean to you? While thinking of ISAK, did you think of implementing gender equality in some way?
For me, gender equals diversity and ISAK signifies diversity in every sense. Equality is great but excellent education adds the essence to it which costs money. But ISAK deals with both equality and excellence keeping every student’s needs in mind.
When you achieved success in your career, do you think people treated you differently?
No, I don’t think so. In Japan, I believe gender inequality is just in people’s heads. In fact, when I go to business meetings or dinners etc. often I’m the only woman present but that can work as an advantage as well. Being the only woman, I stand out and people remember me more than the others.
Do you find difficulty in handling your career and family at the same time? How do your kids / family think of your business ventures?
Being married is much easier than having children. My husband was always very support of my dreams and he was one of the first donors for ISAK. He is very proud of me and very supportive too. As for kids, I have really limited my international business ventures as much as possible. My husband and my parents stay with them when I’m on tour but it’s not always practical as they need me. However, my family is immensely supportive and helpful towards me.
How do you feel you are treated as a women when you are in Japan compared to when you studied in the US?
If you are a single woman there is no difference but if you have children it is easier in the US. Even when it comes to babysitters, they are too expensive in Japan. Hence, that is one of the reasons why many women leave their jobs after pregnancy. I mean almost 60% of the women let go of their jobs even though they may have high potential. But if this situation gets a solution, I think it’ll be very beneficial for women who have children.
Do you think that gender equality is a concern for men?
It is and it should be. Any diversity brings creativity. Having women helps companies obviously because women are half of the population. In fact, honorable Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been promoting the involvement of women in workforce through his policies and I think that’s great. Women involvement and empowerment will definitely help the economy and hence the country in general.
Your research focuses on improving education in Japan. How does education connect with gender equality in the workplace?
Yes and this belief led to ISAK. Education is the stepping stone towards not just gender equality but diversity which brings in different perspectives and ideas focusing on different factors. When women are educated, they are capable of making better decisions for the family and be able to stand for themselves. I strongly believe it will make for a much better workplace than present.
Do you think today the view on working women has changed since 20 years ago in Japan?
Yes, you can definitely see change even though its gradual and slow. 20 years ago, there were no women working outside their homes, the after 10 years, some women got courage and set out an example for other women to start working but still there were none at high executive positions. 5 years ago, a few women started going up to executive positions showing that they are as much capable. And finally in today’s times, quite a few women have reached really high positions in Japan and beyond. So, I think change is definitely happening but its gradual. We need to keep working on the pace.
Thank you so much Ms. Kobayashi for your time and helping us spread awareness through this interview.
It was a great pleasure for me to help you in any way on this. Gender equality especially in Japan is a great concern for everyone and is also the passage to economic and social development. So thank you very much.