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Simmons Helps to Develop Japanese Women Leaders

October 10, 2012

The Japanese Women's Leadership Initiative (JWLI) Fellows Program wrapped up its sixth year of programming at the Simmons College School of Management in September. The goal of the program is to help Japanese women move from traditional roles and become leaders of social change in their home country.

Each year, four Japanese women are selected from a pool of applicants in Japan for participation. The program aims to teach the Fellows about the important role of nonprofit organizations in American society, while helping them learn about themselves as women leaders and advocates for social change in Japanese society.

The women receive hands-on training from executives at leading Boston-based nonprofits, such as Ellis Memorial and the Women's Lunch Place. They attend tutorials and classroom lectures at the School of Management, and develop action plans for implementation upon their return to Japan.

The JWLI Program is funded by the Fish Family Foundation through Simmons College Trustee Atsuko Toko Fish and her husband, Lawrence Fish. Fish decided to fund the program with the hope that Japanese women could learn the American model of nonprofit organizations and bring that knowledge back to their home country of Japan.

"Women in Japan are still largely subservient to men, particularly in the business sector. We're helping women step forward as leaders," said Fish. "I hear glass ceilings – and walls – breaking in Japan, and it's making a loud noise."

SOM Dean Cathy Minehan is also pleased with the program and its inherent connection to Simmons.

"Our partnership is mission driven," she said. "Atsuko shares our commitment to women and principled leadership and is 100 percent focused on the success of the JWLI program."

Photo Caption: 2012 Japanese Fellows Kiyono Sakakibara, Rika Tanioka, Noelle Takahashi, and Shima Fumimoto at Simmons.

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