Mar 07, 2024

Corporate News / Feature Story


Exceptional Women Leaders Inspire Inclusion by Setting an Example for All

Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita once proclaimed, “Every single person has their heaven-sent qualities found in no other, and success in life depends on making the most of our unique qualities.” 

Inspired by the example he set, the company has been a long-time advocate for gender parity through Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and is committed to leveraging its DEI principles to create a workplace where every challenge is met with collective strength and individual respect. International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual celebration honoring the achievements and contributions of women to society and promoting gender equality worldwide, personifies Panasonic’s sentiment, as do influential women leaders across the company’s worldwide operations. 

To commemorate IWD 2024, three exceptional Panasonic leaders across multiple regions—Alejandra Ceja from the United States, Wilsey Mockett from the United Kingdom, and Hueiching Cheng from Taiwan region—came together under the theme “Inspire Inclusion” to exchange perspectives on their respective journeys to the top of the corporate ladder.

Defining “inclusion”: Sustaining a work environment where everyone feels included

The cornerstone of any effort to inspire inclusion in the workplace is an understanding of what the word itself means.

Inclusion is an environment that allows you to come in as your authentic self, have a seat at the table, and be actively involved,” says Ceja, Vice President of Office of Social Impact & Inclusion and the Executive Director of the Panasonic Foundation in North America. “For me, as a woman of color in North America, it is important to have those environments where you feel like you are valued as a human being and your talent and your potential is something that is being taken into consideration when decisions are made.”

Photo: Hueiching Cheng

Inclusion is feeling empowered to participate, share views, and contribute to Panasonic’s impact on society,” says Mockett, European Talent Director, Panasonic Business Support Europe. “The opposite is that you feel you have no agency.” Mockett has been using her agency to forge a path of inclusion by embedding DEI initiatives in Panasonic Europe, including a Women in Leadership Program and a collective called the Women Connect Network.

Inclusion is a willingness to have a two-way conversation in a way where everyone feels that their voice can be heard,” says Cheng, head of Human Resources in Taiwan, who spent the early years of her career at Panasonic Japan. “I have been very fortunate in my career to have worked with many people willing to work with each other regardless of the difference in gender, age, nationality, or culture of origin.”

Getting ahead: Inspiring inclusion in STEAM fields through female role models

Ceja pointed out the importance of having visible female role models who inspire girls and young women to pursue careers in STEAM fields, or science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. Despite ongoing efforts globally, women’s representation in leadership and careers in these fields remains low, especially in computer science and engineering.

For Panasonic, as a tech company, we have to make sure that we inspire more women to pursue careers in STEAM fields and to provide pathways into leadership opportunities,” says Ceja. “Valuing and including women and other minority groups not only promotes diversity, but also leads to innovation, economic contributions, and a more inclusive and equitable society.” A series of McKinsey reports called Why Diversity Matters, which spans nearly a decade of research starting in 2015, backs up the claim with facts and figures. In 2023, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were found to be 39% more likely to outperform peers in the bottom quartile—a significant increase from the 15% recorded in 2015.

The Panasonic Foundation in North America partners with non-profit organizations and makes investments in school programs to build the next-generation STEAM workforce to achieve its mission of narrowing the gender gap in these fields. “We look ahead to the day when they are helping create the next innovations that will keep our company thriving,” Ceja said.

Photo: Wilsey Mockett

Ceja, Mockett, and Cheng were all eager to express how important their own personal role models have been in motivating them to continue striving every step of the way in order to ultimately get to where they are today. 

Ceja credits her mother as her first role model, who, through her journey from a small village in Mexico to the United States to seek a better life for her children, instilled in Ceja the confidence and ambition to pursue her dreams. “I’m kind of living her dreams, which she, herself, wasn’t given an opportunity to fulfill,” says Ceja. She also cites inspirational figures within the Panasonic organization, especially Megan Lee, Panasonic Corporation North America’s first female CEO, whose “authenticity and humility” Ceja seeks to emulate. Lee is nothing less than a “super woman,” instrumental in spearheading new business initiatives, strategic planning, digitization of human resources management, as well as the company’s DEI strategy both in the US and Japan. 

Mockett also finds inspiration from women “pathfinders” within the world of Panasonic, including Dr. Yoky Matsuoka, Managing Executive Officer of Panasonic Corporation who also does double-duty as CEO of a U.S. subsidiary focused on building consumer technology products to help people live happier and healthier lives. “She is an extraordinary woman with an almost Konosuke Matsushita-like vision of ‘freedom from pain,’ or eliminating sources of frustration, inefficiency, or discomfort for employees, customers, or stakeholders,” she says.

Cheng, who started her career at Panasonic Japan as a non-Japanese female employee in 2005, was inspired by her colleagues’ early commitment to diversity. “At the time, many Japanese companies had yet to recognize the importance of the concept of diversity,” she recalls, and noted that the company’s culture of inclusivity has been a pivotal part of her professional development and decision to build her career at Panasonic.

Removing barriers: Eliminating unconscious bias and “imposter syndrome”

Mockett raised the importance of removing barriers to women’s participation through tailor-made HR programs, such as by eliminating unconscious bias and the feeling of “imposter syndrome,” or the psychological phenomenon where individuals—particularly women and members of underrepresented groups—experience feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt despite evidence of their competence and accomplishments.

There’s a sort of attitudinal shift that needs to take place, and we can support that,” she explains. “They’ve got the agency and now is their time, so we need to engage them a bit more to help them envision the fantastic future that they could have.”

Cheng explained how roundtable discussions, which she organizes in Taiwan—where female employees meet with executives and express their opinions—are part of her efforts to create a “safe space” for women. “Female workers have to like the environment, and the environment itself should empower them,” she says.

Photo: Alejandra Ceja

Ceja noted that not even women at the top of their careers are immune to imposter syndrome, citing herself as an example, and what she does to combat it. “If ever the impostor syndrome wants to creep in, I think back to the strength my mother always demonstrated,” she explains.

In the United States, a mentoring program for women was instated and, according to Ceja, has proven successful since its launch two years ago. “The program has helped us to have conversations where somebody can just listen, help, and guide others to that next level,” she says. “There’s no judgment involved, which allows the individual to continue to grow and develop and work on increasing levels of confidence.” 

Advising young women: Building confidence and forging an inclusive future for all

The respective careers of Ceja, Mockett, and Cheng are testaments to the power of taking personal responsibility to create an inclusive future. Each faced unique challenges, but instead of being hindered by insecurities, they took active steps to grow—and now they all lead by example.

Ceja, navigating the often solitary path of a woman of color in government and policy, empowered herself through leadership programs and mentorship. Her journey underscores the importance of proactively seeking growth opportunities. “Believe in yourself and if you need to build your confidence, seek out those mentorship or training opportunities,” she advises.

Mockett, who had an earlier career in the music industry, taught herself the value of collaboration over individual struggle. By inviting diverse perspectives, including those of critics, she enhanced her work and professional standing. “Embrace collaboration and actively seek out opposing viewpoints,” she recommends. She also encourages young professionals to prioritize collective insight and teamwork.

Cheng, confronted with cultural adjustments, says she embraced active listening and open communication in order to establish her values and individual voice. “These skills are vital for young women navigating their early careers, especially in diverse workplace environments,” she explains.

Photo: Alejandra Ceja and her colleagues

The combined experiences of Ceja, Mockett, and Cheng form an inspirational portrait for women everywhere against the backdrop of International Woman’s Day 2024. They also paint a vision of a future where Panasonic’s identity is rooted in diversity. Their wisdom lights the way for young women professionals, guiding them toward a world where their voices are amplified, and their potential is limitless.

Pursue those dreams, whatever they may be,” Ceja says. “We only get one chance at this life, so instead of sitting idle and worrying about what you think you don’t have, seek out those opportunities where you can empower yourself and continue to grow.”

What is Panasonic’s definition of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)?

Panasonic is committed to leveraging its DEI principles to create a workplace where every challenge is met with collective strength and individual respect, and defines DEI as follows:

  • Diversity means valuing each person’s unique qualities, from internal beliefs to external attributes, and understanding that these differences drive innovation and progress.
  • Equity means fairness in access to opportunities, ensuring all individuals are treated fairly and have the tools and information they need to succeed.
  • Inclusion means the creation of a culture where motivated individuals can actively engage and contribute, fostering an environment where the power of diversity is harnessed to generate higher value. 

Learn more about Panasonic’s approach to DEI.

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