Top executive with Air Canada talks at
a CCCJ event about her path to success

On January 21, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan (CCCJ) invited its members to attend the latest seminar in their Global Diversity Management series, titled “Career Progression as a Woman in Japan.”

The guest speaker at the event was Kiyo Weiss, director of regional and premium sales Asia-Pacific at Air Canada, who spoke from her personal experience about how women can find success in Japan’s corporate environment and what Japanese companies need to know to increase diversity.

Simple Desire

Weiss graduated from university in 1985, before Japan’s Equal Opportunity Law went into effect in April 1986. She joined Mitsui & Co., Ltd., as a freshman, but left the company after a year and three months and decided to study English in earnest at a college to find a better job at an international company.

After her studies, Weiss’s dynamic career path took her from a marketing position at Business International (a division of The Economist Group) to working as an account executive at United Airlines and then to Air Canada, where she steadily rose through the ranks.

One of her motivations for success through-out her career has been her admiration for her father, who had been working internationally and visiting many different countries on business since she was little. As she explained, she always had a “simple desire”: “I wanted to work with people all over the world, meeting new people and finding new ideas, just like my father.”

To move people, Weiss argued that the most important thing is to “be passionate this is much stronger than any argument or logic. People are more likely to support those who are passionate about something.”

However, Japanese people are generally not very good at showing their feelings, and this is an area in which Japanese workers — and women — can improve. Weiss reminded her audience: “I learned how important it was to take a chance when I was 13 years old. That was when I took part in a homestay program in the United States. I would like to stress that everyone should take a chance, or even a risk, to gain experience and grow as a person.”

“Japan definitely needs more people to work productively — no matter their gender, nationality or religion.”

Never Stop Learning

Throughout her career, Weiss has recalled how important it is to hold on to the habit of learning naturally, like a child. “If your boss gives you a chance,” she stressed, “you should take it, even though it might not be something that you expected or want at first. There must be some reason your boss decided to give you that chance. Do not be afraid of making mistakes and never stop learning, like a child.”

Weiss herself is a wife and the mother of a daughter, and she discusses how important it is to make strategic use of time to maximize opportunities for both her private and professional life. “I use time to make my life rich,” Weiss said. “I learn so much from my family every day, and so when I’m with them I try my best to use my time effectively. I have no words to thank my husband for his help, too.”

According to research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in terms of gender equality, Japan is ranked 110th out of 149 countries — the lowest of all G7 countries —while Canada is ranked 16th. Weiss emphasized that the gender gap is one of the problems that Japan has to improve for the future of the country: “This isn’t only a matter of gender diversity, but also about the productivity in the workplace. Japan definitely needs more people to work productively — no matter their gender, nationality or religion.”

The seminar provided a valuable opportunity for audience members to think about the challenges that Japan faces in the workplace, as well as an inspiring example of a woman who has found great success in the workforce.

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