Legal Dept. was different because they were led by Miss Sasaki.
Miss Sasaki was the only woman director in the office. She was not even 40 years old when I first met her, but she was respected and relied upon by both men and women, old and young. She was tall and lean, short-haired and regal-nosed, confident and relaxed. She managed a team of ten, all in their 20s to 30s and men and women were equally proportioned. The team was less hierarchical than other departments led by older men. Instead of dividing tasks by importance or complexity, each staff took the responsibility of one line of work. So we were able to consult with each team member for their knowledge without relying on one person of status with full knowledge. One assistant supported Miss Sasaki, but she did her expenses by herself. I later learned that Miss Sasaki also ensured the pool of bonus capital allocated to the Legal Dept was distributed fairly to each team member, even if that eroded her share.
I wished Miss Sasaki was my boss and hoped to learn from her, but what I did then didn’t even give me a chance to talk to her. So I was nervous when I finally had one when I sat with her backstage for the annual shareholders’ meeting, and Miss Sasaki and I prepared mock answers to investors’ common questions. I had feared her, but she was quite jovial in person. She told me about her upbringing and her career before she took the current position. Her life story was fascinating. She spent her childhood in Germany because of her father’s job, and she still spoke and understood the language. Her mastery in Shaolin Kanfu explained her athletic appearance. She graduated from Waseda in the middle of hyper economic growth and landed a job at a multinational American tech company. But quickly realizing their bureaucratic structure and sexual discrimination would take her nowhere, she quit the job in two years and taught at an international organization (can’t recall what she taught.) She asked about my academic background and my aspiration. She was impressed when I told her, but she also sounded concerned that I was at a similar place as her in her early 20s – an ambitious young woman in a bureaucratic and sexist organization. I felt a little discouraged by her negativity, but I thought, if she broke the glass ceiling, why couldn’t I, too?
From that day on, she became my role model. And so she remained for the next four years.
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