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Interview: Executive Officer Responsible for Human Resources Development - Helping women advance in their careers -


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Before diversity emerged as a major social concern, we had already taken a proactive stance in hiring and promoting the best-qualified personnel, regardless of nationality, gender, and age, and pursuing diversity all the while. We have renewed our understanding of the importance of women employees' desire to advance in the company, and are working to accelerate their career development.
This year's report examines this issue from the viewpoint of women, with two women-one in management and one at the junior level-interviewing the executive officer responsible for human resources development, who talked about the necessity of female employees playing active roles in the workplace and future directions of the company's initiatives.

Koriyama: Please tell us about your understanding of the current situation concerning diversity in the MOL Group work force, including our initiatives related to women in the company.

Yashima: First of all, let me emphasize that our current recruiting standards, training policies, and transfer and job posting regulations, make no differentiation regarding gender. Within our corporate group of companies, our employees and crewmembers hail from more than 50 different countries, and they are about fifty-fifty, male and female. I think we can confidently say that our group is definitely anchored in diversity. Looking at MOL alone, we see that women account for 27% of our employees and about 6% of our management. We realize these numbers put us in the emerging bracket when compared with the global level. We started hiring female new graduates for shoreside management positions in 1997, and those who entered the company then have grown and pursued career paths that have now led them into management positions. Of course they are excellent role models for the women who came after them, and we are now finding women on the very front lines of our business. At headquarters, there are currently 11 women seafarers, and there are 12 taking overseas posts, so you can see more and more places where women can play active roles.

Ioka: Please tell us about the necessity and significance of female personnel playing active roles in the MOL Group.

Yashima: Speaking of the group overall, personnel are the most important management resource. Further, diversity of personnel means there can be no limitation on personnel due either to nationality or to gender. In fact, the source of our competitiveness is the ability to put together organizations of people who have moved ahead due to their capabilities and personalities. Especially in Japan, where over the mid-to-long term, a shortage of personnel will become an increasingly serious problem, we must make sure that each employee can make full use of his or her capabilities, and that will help us win in this extremely competitive business environment. And, from that point of view, women working to their full capabilities are very important to our management strategies.
Another important point I would like to bring up is our risk management portfolio. It is much more valuable to come to an agreement after listening to people of various backgrounds and cultures than to make agreements among people who share the same background and same thoughts. This kind of decision-making is best at dealing with fluctuations in markets or tolerance for risks. And, from this viewpoint as well, we can see how important the contributions from women really are.

Ioka: Women have life events such as marriage, giving birth, and raising children. What is your opinion about such events?

Yashima: We really must continually retain our essential human resources, so our maternity and child-care benefits must exceed the legal requirements. In other words, we want to make it easy for women to continue their careers. We understand that a woman who has been with the company for several years and is really advancing quickly can have a life event that will require her to take a leave of absence of two or three years, so we strive to ensure a wide choice of possible career paths for female personnel when they return.
Further, as of fiscal 2014, we introduced a new system that gives female personnel to be reemployed with the company within four years even if they have to leave the company to follow their spouse to an overseas posting. Another important program is the "Women's Initiatives (WI)", which are administrated by our female executives. WI has carried forward activities aimed at promoting active roles for women, such as planning and presenting seminars and setting up networking opportunities for female executives among group companies. Of course the company continues to support these movements.

Koriyama: Finally, looking forward toward more active roles for females, what specifically does management expect of our employees?

Yashima: First of all, in line with our robust policies on human resources development, we hope each employee will commit to working with a sense of ownership. That means an attitude of always having a sense of ownership even when confronting a difficult problem, and solving it while cooperating with everyone involved. That's the sense we need and want, and it applies to male and female employees alike.
It doesn't matter whether an employee is male or female, we still want them to have that sense of ownership; we don't want someone who just does what he or she is told to do. Instead, the employee should always be aware of how his or her job is positioned, whether there is anything else that could be added to it, and we hope all employees will keep these things in mind as they go about their daily jobs.
Managers with women on their teams have to keep in mind the historical background of their active roles as well as the life events unique to females. With that in mind, old-fashioned hesitance to assign women to certain tasks should no longer be an issue. By the same token, first we will educate managers about the idea that they should not consider their female employees for special training and business assignments, though they are required to make a certain considerations for female employees.
Last year, when I visited companies in Sweden and Norway, both known as advanced countries in the realm of female rights and progress, everyone I talked to said basically the same thing: Awareness (understanding that women have all the skills and capabilities of men) is most important. That's why they do "awareness" seminars on a regular basis, and I was able to learn many of the things they do. In our group as well, we should proactively communicate our expectations to their female employees through managers, and in training programs. We will make our best endeavors to help nurture the "awareness" of each female employee and to build the proper work environment that allows them to fully demonstrate all of their skills.

Comments from Female Workers

I loved ships from the time I was a little girl, so I enrolled in the Kobe University of Mercantile Marine (now Kobe University). I honed my English skills by studying abroad, and joined the company in 2004 as a female officer. I have encountered no disadvantages and things have not been inconvenient at all. Onboard ship, we have a tiered society, an officer serves in a management post, and actual operations are done mostly by non-Japanese crewmembers. It is important to speak to them about even the small things, and making it easy for crewmembers to come and talk is very much a part of safe operation. The greatest sense of accomplishment we get on our vessel is arriving and leaving harbors at precisely the scheduled time.

Kayo Sugai First Officer

MOL Liner, Ltd., based in Hong Kong, serves as headquarters and handles Asian area management of MOL's s liner business. Many of its important strategic decisions are made by the managers there. In all, 26 women are managers or above, and the percentage of women among all managers has reached 20%.
Also, a female manager at MOL (HK) Agency Ltd., which does agency work out of Hong Kong, organized "Women in MOL." This is a network involving female employees who work in Hong Kong and southern mainland China. "Women in MOL" provides various activities such as training programs that help women gain a better understanding of themselves and those around them while helping them improve their skills.

Connie Or
Director, MOL Liner, Ltd./General Manager,
MOL (Asia) Ltd.

Conduncted in June 2015

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