TOKYO -- A woman will join the leadership of Keidanren this June for the first time in the almost 70 years since Japan's most powerful business lobby came into existence.
Haruno Yoshida will become one of the vice chairmen of Keidanren's board of councilors. The 50-year-old is currently the head of the local unit of British telecommunications giant BT Group.
When Keidanren Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara offered her the job, he asked her to bring a gust of fresh air into the organization, promising the support of all the other officers. She readily agreed.
Women are still few and far between in the nation's business community. Of the roughly 1,300 corporate members of Keidanren, less than 20 of those companies are headed by women. Since the government's push to empower women is not going to happen overnight, Yoshida is poised to make a sustained effort to tackle the issue.
Having worked at NTT Communications and other Japanese and foreign telecom companies for 25 years, Yoshida is confident in her abilities as a salesperson. She played a key role in the sharp reduction of international phone rates in Canada, and has chalked up numerous sales records in Japan and the U.S.
Yoshida has lived an eventful life. She suffered a serious illness right before graduating college, resulting in the cancellation of her job offer. After divorcing, she raised her child as a single mother for 20 years. And she lost many acquaintances and clients in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, which she witnessed from a nearby office.
Yoshida says that her motto is "feel the fear and do it anyway," adopting the title of a book. She will have her work cut out for her as the sole woman in what has been a boys' club.