Lighting the Way

Lighting the Way

A sense of adventure brought me to Japan. I arrived from Taiwan in 1981, and one of the first things that shocked me about Japanese society was how male-oriented it was.

This hit home after I mastered the Japanese language and secured a job at a local IT company. I soon lost count of the number of times I was asked to serve tea to my male colleagues, and I had to constantly remind my boss that I wasn’t comfortable doing it. 

Even after I became the first Taiwanese woman to make sales manager in the company—earning myself the nickname “the Taiwanese tiger”—serving tea to men remained one of my duties. Such experiences, though, reinforced my determination and fortitude to succeed. 

When a client encouraged me to start my own business, I took his advice. It was very tough at first. Banks wouldn’t lend me money and landlords wouldn’t rent me any office space. Despite these hurdles, I persevered, and my IT recruitment agency, AC Global Solutions, has been in business now for 30 years. 

I have always been fascinated with technology, its rapid evolution and its power to help workforces become more efficient and productive in their jobs. 

But six years ago, I was struck by the absence of women in the fast-developing tech sector. Last year’s Women in Tech Index revealed that just 13 percent of tech workers in Japan are female. In contrast, around 25 percent of computing jobs are held by women in the United States and 30 percent in Bulgaria. In addition, the gender pay gap in Japan’s tech industry is nearly 32 percent. 

Determined to change the woeful situation in Japan, I set up Women in Technology Japan, with help from Google and a few fellow women in the tech field. The organization’s vision is to boost the number of women in technology and to nurture the next generation of innovation leaders. 

We provide a forum for female IT professionals and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students to come together to connect, inspire and empower one another. We also organize speaker events, workshops and mentor dinners.

Since the founding of Women in Technology Japan, we have seen a 2 percent increase in the number of women working in the tech sector. Our goal is 5 percent by next year. 

The fact is the future of Japan’s economy will heavily rely on the participation of women in the workforce. The country needs diversity and inclusion in lots of job sectors, particularly technology. It’s time to disrupt the status quo and embrace diversity. Innovation and the survival of corporate Japan depend on it. 

The government is proposing measures to introduce computer programming in the junior high school curriculum, but I believe the private sector has a role to play in education, too. 

I know change will take a long time, but we must start with our children, whatever their gender.

Words: Annie Chang 
Illustration: Tania Vicedo