Women Leading the Charge toward Equity at Panasonic North America

Apr 07, 2023

Corporate News / Feature Story


Women Leading the Charge toward Equity at Panasonic North America

Global and PNA Trends for Female Leadership

The percentage of women in leadership positions continues to rise, but achieving gender equity at decision-making levels in business remains a challenge. Participation of women in leadership roles has steadily increased since 2016, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, which found that women achieved a gender parity rate of 36.9% in 2022 despite a slight pause under COVID. Women’s representation varies significantly by industry, but this trend is changing. Three industries with lower shares of female representation in 2021—technology (30%), energy (25%), supply chain and transportation (25%)—are also the industries with the biggest improvements in hiring rates for women into leadership since 2016.

Amid these global trends, Panasonic Corporation North America (PNA) is actively promoting DEI activities that support and foster women leaders. Panasonic Newsroom Global (PNRG) spoke to women leaders at PNA who are leading the charge toward equity.

Megan Lee, Chairwoman & CEO: No Quick Fixes on Long Journey to DEI

Photo: Megan Lee, Chairwoman & CEO

You are known for your commitment to fostering a high-performance culture that celebrates a diversity of ideas, experiences, and backgrounds. How has DEI impacted your career path?

I’ve trained myself to look beyond my own perspective and constantly think, understand, and empathize with others. This approach has helped me to learn and grow in terms of working with others and leading. Diversity is not just the right thing to do—it is a business imperative that helps organizations expand their thinking and their creative horizons.

What are your thoughts about current DEI measures?

We have to work on the quantity and quality of women’s equity and empowerment. Success requires moving beyond simple measures and committing to a long-term strategy for investing in and developing women. A quick fix will not work. We are experiencing success in measures, but small successes and sustained efforts lead to meaningful systemic change. So we should continue to invest in developing and empowering our people for long-term success.

When promoting DEI measures, are you inspired by Konosuke Matsushita?

Yes, the concept of “sunao-mind”—being open-minded. We need to focus on the future, the possibilities, and find new opportunities that allow our diverse people to play a role in creating and growing the business. The opportunities are there, so we should be positive and make efforts based on “sunao-mind.” 

Megan Pollock, VP, Branding & Strategic Communication: Be Authentic

Photo: Megan Pollock, VP, Branding & Strategic Communication

With over 20 years of experience at multicultural companies, what challenges have you faced as a female executive?

Being authentic. The concept is simple, but I know firsthand how easy it is to try to “fit the mold” of the leadership of a multinational tech firm. With only one in four leaders in our industry female, we don’t often have role models like ourselves. I’m incredibly grateful that this is not the case at Panasonic, where I have so many female role models to learn from.

When I’m authentically myself, I bring a lot to the table: compassion, empathy, passion, and a desire for open dialogue. These skills aren’t unique to women and I have started to embrace how powerful they are—and how often they are lacking within leadership ranks. So what I have to bring is of tremendous value.

What have you done to face this challenge?

It has often required education and a willingness to speak up. Sometimes I needed to define why these characteristics were a strength and ultimately an asset to the organization. I like to believe I am humble and incredibly collaborative—but I have to be protective of these characteristics. Humility and collaboration have nothing to do with a lack of confidence, and everything to do with strength—the type of strength that is valuable in the executive ranks.

Women and Allies RISE to Embrace Diversity and Inspire Success

Through its five Business Impact Groups (BIGs), PNA employees seek to embrace their differences and create a culture of inclusion, where everyone feels empowered. RISE is a BIG that focuses on positively shaping the career growth and development of female employees, creating a safe space for women and men to discuss the challenges women face in the workplace, while building a strong community for networking, mentorship, and professional development opportunities.

RISE co-founders Rina Desai (PNA Director of Financial Planning & Analysis) and Charlene Ragin (Group Manager of Marketing & Product Innovation, Panasonic Canada Inc.) talked to PNRG about the organization, its purpose, and how it is inspiring and encouraging employees:

Photo: Rina Desai, PNA Director of Financial Planning & Analysis

What motivated you to launch or join RISE?

Desai: We created RISE due to a passion for continuing to empower women and our male allies. Our mission is right there in the name, which stands for Recognizing the Impact of Strengthening Each Other. We want to help members find the best versions of themselves.

Ragin: RISE inspires its members to realize and embrace the power in building one another up. Together, we explore and take action towards positively shaping our relationships, our work and the community in pursuit of a better life and a better world.

Photo: Charlene Ragin, PCI Group Manager of Marketing & Product Innovation

How is RISE making a difference at Panasonic?

Desai: By providing an opportunity for women across the organization to connect, learn and grow. All genders are welcome. RISE is for anyone who is looking to find a friend, share their knowledge, or just listen.

What RISE project stands out to you or is meaningful to you?

Ragin: I recently returned from maternity leave to find that members were taking ownership of RISE. One is starting a book club and she’s been doing an amazing job engaging with other members to get it going. Rina and I are not RISE—all the members are—and this initiative really brings that to the forefront. 

What keeps you involved?

Desai: The positive impact it makes and the strong community that keeps growing. In the two years since RISE was established, membership has more than quadrupled. It’s a great community and I’m honored to be part of it.

Ragin: It continues to challenge me in many different areas. Hearing how others are benefiting also motivates me to continue.

Why should Panasonic employees join RISE?

Ragin: RISE is an employee led BIG focused on offering resources to members to help them in their personal and professional lives. The leadership team listens to members to find resources in the form of content, initiatives, and events to meet their career development needs. Why not join RISE?

Messages to of Encouragement to Young Women and Future Leaders

PNRG asked all four women for their personal message to young women starting out on their career journey—here’s how they responded:

Lee: Be mindful of self-management. Know who you are, what you like and your strengths. Take it a day at a time and stay positive and don’t give up on learning and growing. If you stay positive and open-minded (sunao-mind), you will notice that you are already surrounded by people who are willing to help you grow and succeed. 

Pollock: Don’t try to fit someone else’s image of who you need to be—you will never be successful as someone else. Be willing, especially early in your career, to take risks to learn and grown. Finally, build a network of allies, advisors, advocates, and mentors and then listen to them—especially when the advice is hard to accept.

Desai: Have a plan—it may change as your progress, but set yourself some short term and long term goals. If you don’t know how to plan, consider the path taken by someone you admire and see how it can help you define your own.

Ragin: Don’t let fear get in the way of growth. Challenge yourself to take on new opportunities to develop new skills. When you overcome what may be holding you back you will unlock your new super power.

The Road Ahead for Panasonic Group

Panasonic Group is taking action across the organization to accelerate the participation of women in management—from holding study sessions for female employees and career development seminars for female leaders to creating opportunities to experience the values and work perspectives of role models and further strengthening the management skills of supervisors. In 2021, the Group announced its support for the “30% Club Japan,” a global campaign aimed at “increasing the percentage of women in key decision-making bodies in companies.”

The Group will continue to support the advancement of women and promote the creation of an environment in which female employees can take up challenges in their own way.

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