Choose to Challenge: Voices from Panasonic
International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on March 8 to mark women's achievements in our global community and raise awareness about women's equality and gender parity. First celebrated by the United Nations in 1975, the theme for this year's IWD is "choose to challenge."
At Panasonic, we believe our greatest asset is not just our people; it's individuals from unique backgrounds, mindsets and experience that come together to challenge the status quo. Under the IWD2021 theme #ChooseToChallenge, we collaborated with colleagues from around the world to bring you personal stories about passion and drive and overcoming challenges in the workplace.
"As long as you have the passion and dedication to persevere, you will succeed."
- Rachael Ng
I'm a firm believer in the potential that innovation and technology can bring to Panasonic businesses. I derive the greatest satisfaction from being able to observe the results that can be generated through the adoption of digital solutions. Put simply, I enjoy bringing change, new capabilities and progress to Panasonic.
Rachael Ng, Director of PA IT Planning (Concurrent), Managing Director of Panasonic Information Systems Asia Pacific
Generally speaking, the IT sector has been a male-dominated industry. Women with a passion for technology management have to take a leap of faith, believe in themselves and then go above and beyond to demonstrate their capabilities if they are to be taken seriously. My role requires me to work with many top executives within Panasonic. Several years ago, it was not unusual for me to be the only woman in an APAC executive meeting - that was quite a ratio: 70 men and 1 woman. Thankfully, the situation is improving. In these meetings, I find strength in the belief that I can provide valuable perspectives to Panasonic leadership with opinions, suggestions and proposals that come from my unique - and diverse - perspective.
The potential for IT to contribute to business transformation is endless. With a commitment to grooming the next generation of leaders, I am actively mentoring younger people to help them succeed in an environment where disruption is the norm. But whatever path you choose in life, understand that the ride won't be easy, you will need to take risks, you will face challenges and (sometimes) you will experience rejection. As long as you have the passion and dedication to persevere, you will succeed - your gender has nothing to do with it.
Young women embarking on a career in technology have already overcome numerous hurdles and stereotypes. My advice is to continue being true to yourself: you don't need to change to be accepted and one day you will earn respect for your accomplishments.
"When confronting bias, it's important to try to understand where the other person is coming from."
- Hatsumi Ura
In 2005, I became the first female salesperson in the corporate sales department, where I would eventually spend eight years of my career. It was difficult to be a female salesperson in a male-society, but I told myself: "I'm definitely going to achieve my sales targets and my plan and then let the results speak for themselves!"
Hatsumi Ura, Founder & CEO of MITSUBACHI PRODUCTS Inc. & Panasonic Corporation Appliances Company (on hiatus)
I was in charge of kitchen appliances and it was clear to me that training female salesfloor staff at our customers was going to be crucial to the success of our business, so I collaborated with headquarters and after only three year in the department became the person in charge of training these employees.
In the process of conducting product training, role play training and sales floor development training, I was able to increase sales and share what I learned with my colleagues - an outcome that I think contributed to establishing the position of female salespeople in the department. Today, I'm no longer involved in sales, but rumor has it that some customers continue to rely on "Ura-isms" - and that's nice to hear.
Working in sales helped me launch my own business and I think sales is a good place to gain experience in generating numbers, which helps to visualize your role in other related departments and organizations.
When confronting bias, it's important to sincerely communicate how you feel. But it's also important to try to understand where the other person is coming from, and I do this by listening to their opinion and then putting what they say into context based on their background. I've found that this helps to calm my anger and allows me to read the situation differently.
There is a perception that women are not good at thinking logically. Instead of trying to overcome that image by doing everything yourself, my advice is to invest your energy into developing your strengths.
"If one person - just one - stops to reflect on and deconstruct his behavior, then I feel that what I'm doing has had an impact."
- Thelma Falcone
I'm a B2B Sales Executive and I sell fixed telephony solutions and security cameras. My professional passion is working with people, delivering solutions to problems and making a difference.
Thelma Falcone, B2B Sales Executive for System, Panasonic Brazil
My biggest challenge as a woman has been working a sales executive in a predominantly male market. A predominance that is overwhelming - it's not that in the telephone and security market there are few women, it's that there are almost no women! Being face to face with a client and convincing him to see me as a professional has been difficult. I've faced looks that seek to diminish me, seen smiles and heard comments that hurt me, put up with sexist jokes and felt distrust from everyone because the information they were receiving was coming from a woman.
I overcame these difficulties by holding my head high, demonstrating self-confidence and being unwilling to accept that I deserved to be treated differently from male peers. Day after day, I proved that being a woman does not make me less qualified or less knowledgeable. I did not laugh at the jokes; I expressed my opinion clearly; and I never got into debates or "arm wrestling." People gradually got the message: "She may be a woman, but she knows ... she knows what she's talking about and we can trust her." Is the situation ideal? No, it's not. But compared to what I faced at the beginning, I consider it a victory.
I strongly believe that to challenge prejudice, women must demonstrate that we are as capable as men. We cannot exhibit insecurity, inferiority or fragility. But we can make it clear that we will not condone prejudice. I have a firm position on this: I don't laugh at the jokes and push back every time I encounter a situation in which a woman is being discredited or belittled. But I bear an even greater responsibility beyond confronting prejudice - and that is to encourage and empower other women. And no, I'm not just talking about future generations or our daughters; I'm talking about our aunts, our mothers - those who grew up at a time when prejudice was normalized and admired.
If one person - just one - stops to reflect on and deconstruct his behavior, then I feel that what I'm doing has had an impact.
Believe in yourself, be firm and if anyone tells you what you are or are not capable of, don't accept it. Don't limit yourself! Study and don't give up. Your success depends only on you!
"Do not ever undervalue your worth or the value of your hard work by overvaluing the opinion of others."
- Dion Lillie
As women, we continue to be confronted with inequalities in the workplace, where we face pre-established biases and, sadly, tend to be underrepresented. The good news is that real change comes in numbers. My individual challenges are not unique, but the choices in my life are mine to make and can contribute to a larger movement.
Dion Lillie, Order Administration Manager, Order Administration Group, Panasonic Avionics Corporation
So I choose to ignore the statistics and seek to have a positive impact - in management and in the execution of my duties. I choose to embrace diversity. I choose to manage with inclusion, compassion and accountability. I choose to both absorb and share knowledge. These are the traits that have the power to change cultures. It is said that "silence makes you complicit", so my advice is for each of us to be deliberate in our advocacy.
I am extremely passionate when it comes to my family, my faith, my sports, my leadership, and my community - these are the things that give me boundless energy, drive me to keep going no matter what, fuel my purpose and allow me to create. Almost 10 years ago, my husband and I founded a non-profit organization that promotes youth athletics and training with a strong emphasis on community service. I am the daughter of a single mother who taught me to always give back and encouraged me to seek to be the change I want to see.
Do not ever undervalue your worth or the value of your hard work by overvaluing the opinion of others. The validation comes from within. You are your most powerful when you have laser focus, intense drive and set unwavering boundaries.
"I firmly believe that sincere and patient communication can overcome communication barriers and biases."
- Zhang Mengsha
I have a passion for DIY, adventure and exploring the unknown, and my role within the Housing Systems Business Unit gave me the opportunity to combine all three when I was asked to participate in planning and implementing the Magic House project at Panasonic Hangzhou Industrial Park here in China.
Zhang Mengsha, Building & Housing Solutions Business Division, Housing System Business Unit, China and North Asia
Magic House is a three-story prefabricated house that serves both as a showroom and as a lab for experimenting with the design of industrial buildings and their interiors. Never having been involved in any work related to construction or interior design meant this project was a major challenge for me.
I believe that every challenge is an opportunity to improve, so I jumped in with both feet. The most difficult challenge was coordinating and negotiating with a variety of departments during the construction process. Our design went through countless iterations, and every day brought new problems that needed to be resolved. Our construction team was almost all male, and as a young female employee I often struggled to overcome communication barriers, but I firmly believe that sincere and patient communication can overcome communication barriers and biases.
From construction to opening, it took us 21 days to complete the Magic House - three weeks that saw me experience a major personal and professional transformation. Throughout my journey from the "panicky and confused" beginning to the "confident and skillful" ending, I felt the power of the women around me. Most of our 10-person project team is female and includes two working mothers. Their calmness and resolve helped me to understand that I have an obligation not only to channel their energy, but also to pass it on to other women. I will continue to seek that valuable balance between my work life and my personal life, to feel the passion and energy of others and then to pass it on!
"Nothing in life - relationships, marriage or kids, is as fulfilling as having a dream and working towards it."
- Mehak Gupta
I have been a legal counsel for Panasonic India for almost 3 years and my interest in IoT/AI projects coincides with my work in managing the legal/regulatory compliances for Panasonic's start up technology platforms. I strongly aspire to become a leading technology counsel and believe that this will be the future of every transaction, whether it is business or consumer based. In my personal life, I really enjoy painting, playing tennis and traveling. Traveling might seem cliché but it is not only rejuvenating but also helps create timeless memories. I've been fortunate enough to have had some incredible experiences - from chasing the northern lights, to living in a glass bubble, to an unforgettable adrenaline pumping ride on the world's biggest swing, Nevis.
Mehak Gupta, Legal Counsel, Panasonic India
One of the most disheartening challenges I've experienced in the professional arena is having to prove oneself purely on the basis of gender. You can imagine how prevalent the issue is when this is being felt in a profession like law, where we start our law training with the Constitutional principle of "equality". I remember facing this challenge in the early days when litigating in the Supreme Court of India. Even though we have progressed as a society, a country and a global community, we have a long way to go before opinions are formed purely on merits and not gender.
Never ever give up in working towards your goals! Nothing in life - relationships, marriage or kids, is as fulfilling as having a dream and working towards it. Be selfish when it comes to you! Prioritise your goals! This is often said, but trust me, the significance behind this is only realised once you start getting one or two strands of grey hair.
"We need to encourage other women to continue to speak up, to be confident in their cause and to be comfortable with who they are."
- Sonet Ruthven
Women today are treated more as equals than we were 20 years ago and the situation continues to improve in every corner of the world. Women today have choices - we can choose to have a career while being a mum or we can choose to be single. Women can choose to lead business meetings, stand up to their manager (if that's what it takes), and ask for that well-deserved promotion.
Sonet Ruthven, Head of Department, Human Resources & General Affairs Division, Panasonic Marketing Middle East & Africa FZE
When I was younger - back when board meetings were mostly male - women had to be really tough to be taken seriously. We have come a long way to prove that we can be strong and unwavering yet still have compassion and embrace our femininity. I am truly grateful to have been part of this modernization and transformation.
Nevertheless, we still hear about women not being respected or treated equally, and sexual harassment is a global issue. Thankfully, at PMMAF we have a zero tolerance policy and I believe that here in the UAE, people are more careful about overstepping boundaries. I look forward to a future in which women in any workplace, regardless of their qualifications, will not feel compelled to make the boss a cup of tea or look the other way when unpleasant advances are being made. Yes, we've come a long way - but the struggle was and is real and the journey is not yet over. We need to encourage other women to continue to speak up, to be confident in their cause and to be comfortable with who they are.
If I have any advice to offer, it is to believe in your career and yourself, do what you enjoy, be confident with whatever decisions you make, but do not hesitate to gracefully admit when you have to change your mind, your cause and your course! You're not a failure if you make mistakes, but you are wise if you are humble enough to ask for help!
"Show the world who you are and what drives you - but at the same time try to support others as much as possible to grow and develop as well."
- Margarita Lindahl
Being able to find happiness and self-fulfillment in both my private and professional life is not only a huge privilege but also the reason why I am so passionate about the things I do. I am extremely thankful to the people around me, they are the ones who have enriched, empowered and inspired me to become the person I am today.
Margarita Lindahl, European PR & Social Media Lead, Panasonic Business Europe
In turn, I see it as my challenge to encourage women (and men) around me to follow their passion. I think sharing your insight and knowledge is a good way to motivate each other. A recent example: In the last year, I have provided over 30 training sessions on "Social Selling" to my sales colleagues to help them establish and strengthen their professional brand online. I have also encouraged others to share their know-how by involving them in presentations.
Opportunities to grow are everywhere but the key is developing the ability to see them for what they are. Most of these opportunities are dressed in overalls and mean hard work. My strong belief is that as long as you've got passion, faith and are willing to work hard, no matter what may get in your way, you will be able to seize the opportunity and be successful.
If opportunities don't knock, build a door! Don't be afraid.
Additionally, a strong network is really important. I am a very loyal person and being close to my network is important to me. I do not see any of my successes as based purely on my own efforts. Rather they are based on the successes of the people around me, supporting me and helping me grow.
Show the world who you are and what drives you - but at the same time try to support others as much as possible to grow and develop as well. Be the leader who gives others the feeling that they are important - a leader with brain, vision, soul, values and a heart!
Seize opportunities and most importantly be yourself - everyone else is already taken!
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