Fearless is the word that comes to mind when I think of Mami Hatano. But if you are conjuring up an image of a warrior in your mind, then you are wrong. Instead, think of someone with a gentle smile and quiet confidence; someone who expertly navigates through the complexity of a male-dominated society in order to advance gender equity.

Yes, I say fearless, because leading the charge to put gender equity on the table for discussion in Japan requires you to conquer your own fear. It is a battle ladened with time-bound traditions and cultural beliefs and seemly impenetrable systemic barriers.

About Mami Hatano

As Co-CEO of Hatano Systems, a Tokyo-based engineering company specialising in servicing power generator systems since 1946, Mami is uniquely positioned to be a gender equity advocate and role model as female leadership is still relatively uncommon in Japan.

Despite being highly educated, data released by Japan’s Gender Equality Bureau showed only 5.2% of board directorship in Japanese companies were held by women in 2019.

To actively push for women’s agenda in this conservative environment is an courageous act, which echoes the theme of the 2021 International Women’s Day – Choose to Challenge.

In this resilient leadership story, we celebrate International Women’s Day by honouring individuals like Mami Hatano who work diligently to shape the future of every women.

This is Mami’s resilient leadership story.

You wear many hats. Tell us who Mami Hatano is.

I am a woman, a Japanese, a mother, a daughter, a wife and a Co-CEO who wants to contribute to family and society through being an effective and good leader. Promoting diversity management, making diversity an organisational asset, is important to me and it influences how I lead.

In Japan, many institutions still operate in a way that is very rigid and bound by traditional gender stereotypes. This type of thinking imposes on the role that men and women play in our society and creates prejudice and lack of consideration for minority groups. I have made a commitment as my life’s work to promote diversity.

Japan is a beautiful country, which is proud of its traditions. But like you have mentioned, at the same time, Japan is also bound by cultural expectations and conservative practices. This makes gender equity a particularly hot topic in Japan.

What are some of the daily examples that you have observed during your advocacy work that you would like to help improve?

Gender inequity is heavily entrenched in our culture. From childhood to adulthood, Japanese women have been forced into stereotyped thinking in that women should behave in a certain way at home, in school and workplace. For example, data have shown that more Japanese women than men believe women should be the one to do house chores and that it is not reasonable to expect women to achieve as much as men professionally as women may become pregnant.

Sometimes women can lock their potential away with self-bias and, therefore, limiting themselves. I would like to get rid of those self-biases through my advocacy work. I would like to help Japanese women learn to believe in themselves and be ambitious. Just like men, women have great potential and should embrace endless possibilities in life.

We love the work you do in advancing gender equity in Japan. Please tell us what initiatives that you have worked on or have been working on in this area.

There are 3 platforms that I have been involved in to advance gender equity in Japan.

Through Junior Chamber International (JCI)

JCI is a young active citizen network with 150,000 members and 4,600 local organisation in 120 countries around the world. I was the first female president of Junior Chamber International Tokyo (JCI Tokyo) in the 68 years since its establishment in 1949. During my presidency year in 2017, our 700 members and I implemented 79 projects that had diversity and inclusion as one of the key goals. We mobilised 57,086 people in Japan to participate in our projects within a space of 12 months. After my presidency, I continue to give lectures on diversity and inclusion to various audience including leaders of small and medium-sized companies through the JCI network. This experience has taught me how a leader could really amplify the message and make a difference if they wanted to.

Through Women’s Empowerment Network (WEN)

Thanks to my work with JCI, I met some amazing like-minded female leaders. So in 2017, I established Women’s Empowerment Network (WEN) with some of JCI Tokyo members. WEN members focus on raising awareness of and finding ways to practically achieve gender equity in Japan particularly through the business sector. For example, we hold yearly events to promote gender equity and deliver lectures to educate a wider audience. We also value collaborations. We have just concluded a project with JCI Norway, which involved exchanging our learnings on gender equity between 2 countries.

Through Hatano Systems

I co-manage Hatano Systems Co. Ltd. with my brother. Hatano Systems’ service offering includes installation, maintenance and renewal of generator systems for back-up. As expected, it is traditionally a male-dominated industry, but this also puts us in a great position to promote diversity management.

We work hard to promote female leadership within the company. Our industry in Japan is quite conservative, especially with smaller companies. But at Hatano Systems, we do things differently. While there is still room for improvement, our company is actively working on offering equal opportunities to all our employees. We believe by doing so, not only can we attract and keep staff, particularly young talents, everyone also enjoys good work-life balance – something that is extremely difficult to achieve in Japan.

We also make a point to employ female sales representatives and engineers and actively appoint female leaders. We also implement flexible working arrangement including maternity leave and child care leave.

We believe raising awareness is critical in advancing our gender equity work, so I have given lectures to all my employees to promote diversity and inclusion. Recently, I have started giving lectures to staff in other companies in our industry, which is exciting. 

Advocating for gender equity is a challenging task. What are some of the strategies that you have employed to help your work?

Interestingly, when I began my work in this area, I chose to promote not only gender equity but also diversity and inclusion, which covers many other minority groups such as aging and disability populations, foreign communities living in Japan and so on. The reason I chose this approach was some people were quite reluctant to promote gender equity in our male-dominated society. Starting our conversation with diversity and inclusion actually enabled me to connect with people first before tackling gender equity. This approach has worked well as majority of minority groups are actually women. So by arguing that if we neglect gender equity, minority groups would have great difficulty in advocating for diversity and inclusion, I actually help people clarify their understanding and purpose of their advocacy work.

With your advocacy work, no doubt that you have encountered resistance from both men and women. I can see you have to exercise a lot of resilience in order to keep going. Please share with us what resilience mean to you personally and how you practise resilience.

Resilience is one of the ways I show my strength and it is something that I would like to keep cultivating. We can’t achieve gender equity without resilience since it is definitely a long-term challenge.

I believe building my personal resilience starts with staying true to myself every step of the way. I strive to show up as who I am everyday so I can build trust with others. The way I show up true to myself is by practising “my action is my word”. In other words, I do what I say. I believe if I practise this daily, it becomes a habit and this habit eventually becomes my trustworthy reputation.

I also practise my resilience by not being afraid of problems. Instead I try my best to problem solve by respecting different ideas, contributing to and learning from others. With this mindset, I continue to make great relationships, which allows me to keep going even when things become tough. I believe this is also a source where I draw my resilience from. 

You have a very supportive family who also shares your belief in gender equity. Tell us how having these champions has impacted your work?

My family, including my parents, brother and husband, even my 18 month old daughter, always encourages me in whatever I have chosen to do in life. This makes me confident, energetic and happy.

With them around me, I get to experience many different points of view by drawing on the wisdom of my champions. I really appreciate the support and learning from my champions.

Japan is the only country in the world where people are legally obligated to make a choice of their surname when they get married. Ninety-six percent of Japanese women choose to take up their husband’s surname. However, my husband changed his surname for me, which has given me the opportunity to take over my family business and take on executive leadership despite being a woman. It is a very rare thing for a man to change their family name in Japan. I am grateful to my biggest champion in life, my husband.

This year the campaign message for International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge. But it is not uncommon that people experience fear when witnessing or experiencing gender inequity. As such, they may choose not to speak up and challenge the situation.

How do you overcome your fear so you can choose to challenge gender inequity safely?

You need a vision if you want to influence change. Having a strong vision, which is backed by logic, facts and action, is quite important to overcome fear. Your vision must involve a bright future for everyone; only then you can have inner confidence to choose to challenge inequality. People subscribe to a great vision and better future, which is fundamental to inspiring people to take action.







この保守的な環境で女性に関するテーマを積極的に推進することは勇気ある行動であり、2021年の国際女性デーのテーマである「Choose to Challenge」を反映しています。











JCIでの活動のおかげで、志を同じくする素晴らしい女性リーダーたちに出会いました。そこで、2017年に公益社団法人東京青年会議所のメンバーたちと東京JC国際女性友好の会(Women’s Empowerment Networks 『以下WEN』)を設立しました。 WENのメンバーは、特にビジネスを通じて、日本でジェンダーの平等を推進するための意識を高め、方法を見つけることに焦点を当てています。たとえば、ジェンダーの平等を促進するためのイベントを毎年開催し、多くの人々が学ぶ機会を提供しています。また、コラボレーションも大切にしています。 最近ではJCIノルウェーとのプロジェクトを実施しました。このプロジェクトでは、お互いの国のジェンダーの平等について学びました。






レジリエンスは私が自分の強みを示す方法の1つであり、これからも育てていきたいと思っている個性でもあります。レジリエンスがなければジェンダーの平等を達成することはできません。それは間違いなく長期的な課題だからです。 私の個人的なレジリエンスは、常に自分自身に忠実であり続けることから始まると信じています。私は、自分が何者あるかを表現することで、他の人との信頼関係を築くように努めています。その方法は、『私の行動は私の言葉である』を実践することです。言い換えれば、『有言実行』ということです。私が毎日実践することは、やがて私の習慣になり、この習慣が最終的に私に対する『信頼できる評判』になると信じています。 私は問題と向き合うことを恐れないことによって自分のレジリエンスを鍛えています。そして、様々な異なるアイデアを尊重し、他の人に貢献し、他の人から学びながら問題を解決することに最善を尽くしています。このような考え方と共に、私は人々と素晴らしい関係を築いており、それによって私は困難な状況ですらも、乗り越え、前に進むことができています。これは私が自分自身のレジリエンスを引き出す源でもあると思います。



今年の国際女性デーのキャンペーンメッセージは、「Choose to Challenge」です。しかし、ジェンダーの不平等を目撃したり経験したりする時に人々が恐怖を感じることは珍しいことではありません。そのため、彼らは発言せず、状況に異議を唱えることを選択しないかもしれません。ジェンダーの不平等に安全に挑戦することを選択できるように、どのようにして恐怖を克服していますか?