Role Model Interview vol.20 MOMO KANAYAMA
Writer: Maaya Sato
Women in Technology Japan (WITJ)’s mission is to close the gender gap in tech and promote diversity and inclusion in Japan.
we want to create a world where women can have the courage to truly shine and find employment in their ideal profession or industry and help as many women as possible to know about the possibilities of working in the IT industry.
This series features people working on the cutting edge of the IT industry, sharing their enthusiasm, thoughts, experiences, and stories.
In this article, we feature Momo, General Manager at LVMH Fragrance Brands K.K.. What is her success story achieving her dream of becoming a bridge between France and Japan, and what are the struggles unique to being in charge?
Q1. Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I would describe myself as someone deeply connected to both Japanese and French influences.
My journey began in Japan, but at the age of 5, my family relocated to France, initially for a short stay, which extended for 20 years. My parents, possessing an open-minded and inquisitive outlook, enrolled me in a local French school, providing me with a comprehensive French education, culminating in a business school graduation. After graduation, I started my career at L’Oreal. Over the course of my career, I relocated to the United Kingdom due to marriage, and 5 years ago, I had the opportunity to return to Japan for a fresh mission.
Q2. Why did you choose L’Oreal as your first career?
During my time at business school, I undertook an internship at L’Oreal. The reason I chose the career at an international French company is because of its strong presence in the world. I aspired to eventually return to Japan, bridging the gap between France and Japan. Since then, I’ve been working for companies to make my goal come true.
Q3. How was your experience working in an International French company?
I would say that there are notable distinctions in both national and corporate cultures.
In European countries, meetings generally maintain a sharp and efficiency-driven focus, primarily centered around decision-making processes. Consequently, participation in these meetings is limited to those essential to the discussions to maximize efficiency. In Japan, meetings hold a different role, often serving as a crucial “process” for discussion and analysis, rather than for immediate decision-making. Adapting to this divergence took some time, but I’ve made it a point to respect both the process and the inherent cultural disparities.
Another significant contrast I observed lies in the necessity to express one’s opinions and ideas. This is generally seen as a strength in international settings that initiates debate and discussion. I often used this tactic and challenged a team with a lot of ideas. It was a valuable approach, particularly in environments where debating is encouraged and deemed a positive attribute. However, I also learned that this isn’t universally the case. In Japan, such assertiveness can sometimes be perceived as a negative quality. Consequently, in my current role, I’ve had to exercise caution in my communication and actions.
Q4. What do you do to overcome these cultural and management challenges?
To overcome these challenges, I emphasize the importance of sharing a common goal with the team and uniting them under a shared vision. I also make it a point to acknowledge the team’s past achievements and lead them toward accomplishing more substantial objectives while maintaining a positive and motivating atmosphere.
Another objective as a team manager, I aim to break down silos and promote collaborative work among team members. This involves creating open workspaces, organizing lunch meetings, and team events to foster a more inclusive company culture where expressing opinions is encouraged. Additionally, I actively engage with team members, regardless of their positions, as our organization has a relatively flat structure. I’ve even sought the opinions of interns directly, ensuring a more open and inclusive environment.
Q5. In Japan, even though we have the objective of having 30% women in leadership roles, we still have lower numbers. What’s the current situation in your company?
Within the LVMH Fragrance Brands K.K., we have a higher representation of female employees compared to males. Among our approximately 200 employees, with about 50 working in the office, many women hold leadership roles in areas such as Marketing, HR, retail, and e-commerce.
In our international offices, there is also a considerable number of female General Managers, including myself. However, in Japan, I am the sole Brand General Manager in the LVMH Beauty Division.
Q6. Similarly, how do you feel about the diversity and inclusion situation?
The President & Representative Director of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Japan, Norbert Leuret recognizes the significance of Diversity and Inclusion and actively promotes the hiring of individuals regardless of their nationality or gender. He also provides guidance to other companies when they are hiring general managers.
However, as a General Manager, I frequently liaise with the HR department, and I’ve noticed the challenges in attracting and recruiting talent. The job market is characterized by a shortage of candidates but a surplus of job opportunities.
Q7. What measures do you believe can be taken to reduce the gender gap and enhance diversity and inclusion in society?
In order to develop talents and leaders for tomorrow, I believe that the companies are responsible to take actions. Hire the older generation, create an environment/company culture where young people want to stay and work by adapting the way they think and aspire.
To encourage the growth of female talents, we need to create and provide an environment where they can “have-it-all” by establishing an environment where women can pursue a lifestyle without feeling the need to make difficult choices.
I was listening to a podcast and one question that came up was from a girl who wants to study, build a career and raise children but she was not sure what to choose and what to give up. I almost felt sorry that she had to feel this way because I believe that It’s not supposed to be a choice, we are entitled to have-it-all.
It’s the company’s duty to provide an environment to support women.
However, in order to make this work, women also need to raise their voice, communicate their issues and support that they require.
When I talk to the HR department, I encourage them to hire people who are like me, who are different. We want to give chances to people who are willing to take it. The responsibility for driving change is shared between society and us, the individuals within it.
Q8. As a working mother, how do you manage between the work?
Being a mother is an eternal cycle of learning!
I acknowledge that I am not a perfect mother, but I continue to learn and try to be a good mother.
One thing I make sure of is that when I’m with my daughter, I try to fully dedicate that time with her 100%, even if it’s just 10 minutes during a bus ride. I believe in giving my undivided attention during those moments.
Q9. What’s your goals?
Never give up. Be humble and continue to learn.
In terms of my current career mission, I am committed to ensuring the success of the Givenchy brand. Our team of 150 staff in 37 stores embodies incredible potential, and I aspire to lead and inspire them to achieve this objective collectively.
WITJ hopes that this role model story will inspire and encourage you to shine and find your dream job or industry.
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