Celebrating International Women’s Day: Messages From Five Mercari Members to Women Everywhere

At Mercari, we post regularly on our corporate LinkedIn account about our organization and the people working within it. Last month, we ran a special month-long series in celebration of International Women’s Day, where we interviewed five Mercari members about their experiences and messages for women across the globe.

Our team at Mercan was also very inspired by their words, and we thought we would put together a compilation of the series here to celebrate and keep a record of their stories beyond just March. We hope that their messages will be heard far and wide, and help spark discussions about what we can do to further promote D&I.

Akiko Fujita (QA Engineer, QA Engineering Team)

Personally, I have never experienced any major struggles for the sole reason of “being a woman.” I am currently a single working mom, but everyone at Mercari is very understanding toward working parents. The company also does a lot of work to promote D&I, so it has been a very nice environment to work in.

However, I had an experience several years ago that made me appreciate my own environment even more. Right after I graduated from university, a friend of mine invited me to visit him in Bangladesh. My friend and his wife were both fairly comfortable and well off growing up. While I was there, almost all of the men I spoke to would ask me if I had plans to get married, or tell me that a woman’s happiness depends on who they decide to marry. I was still young at the time, so I just brushed it off, thinking it was pretty common for men to be saying these things. However, what my friend’s wife said to me really stuck with me. She told me, “You should try to continue to work. Women in this country do not have the opportunity to establish themselves, but you do. I think that is an amazing thing that you shouldn’t take for granted.” It was then that I learned the shocking reality that there are countries where it is a given that women must be dependent on men to live. It made me start thinking about how privileged I am to be in a position that is far different from the reality that she described to me.

There are many different challenges that people face around the world. I would sometimes complain about my own situation, but perhaps there are others who would be grateful to have what I have. If that is the case, I must always be mindful of this privilege—if there are things I can do to create a better environment for others, I believe I should be doing everything I can. Instead of feeling that what I have now is not enough, I can put time and energy into thinking about how I can help others and taking action.
These do not have to be big actions. Making the world a better place can start with small things, like offering to help someone in a wheelchair trying to get on and off the train, volunteering to help fill mandatory roles like in the PTA, or giving to a charity that is important to you. I think these small steps can gradually lead to larger changes in your own thinking and the world. Through each individual embracing these opportunities to help others, I hope for a world where as many people as possible can find joy and happiness in their lives.
Akiko Fujita

Amy Burke (D&I Analyst, Diversity and Inclusion Team)

I hope we will see a world where equal opportunity is the norm. I recently read Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s “Half the Sky,” which highlights some of the terrible oppression women face around the world. When given access to opportunities that were previously denied to them, the women accomplished extraordinary things, both for themselves and for the wider community.

We should also remind ourselves that removal of bias and equal access to opportunities for any gender does not only benefit women or non-binary folks, but also the world at large. Imagine what we could achieve if the blockers were removed! I believe it is the same at Mercari, and I am so happy to be able to work with so many remarkable women who I learn so much from every day. In terms of skills, watching the talented women around me managing both teams and high-stakes projects with strong decision-making, planning, and empathy has taught me a lot about how to go about my own projects. I feel myself becoming more confident in my choices and judgements, and being in this environment with so many talented women encourages me to have confidence and make bold choices.

As a member of the Diversity & Inclusion team at Mercari, I hope I can continue to keep working to create a fair workplace where these women and people of all genders can unleash their own potential, because ultimately this will lead to a stronger and even more innovative organization.
Amy Burke

Phuong Nguyen (Product Manager, Merpay KYC Platform Team)

I think that, currently, the awareness surrounding women’s empowerment is increasing at a very fast pace, faster than ever before. When I was a kid, a lot of women were forced to live under traditional values that said, “men work, and women take care of the home.” I was taught that this way of thinking was a virtue. However, nearly 30 years later, I see so many of my female friends and acquaintances working on research in theoretical mathematics labs, being successful entrepreneurs, or choosing to focus on their families of their own volition; these are things that were unthinkable when I was a child. I am also privileged enough to be contributing to the forefront of the IT industry as a female product manager. On the other hand, I still personally experience many persistent gaps in equality. I hope issues regarding women’s equality will continue to be normalized and talked about openly, and that no woman or girl will have to walk through life alone without role models, guidance, or support.

In the future, I hope the world will take one step further and provide equal access to opportunities in order to eliminate any constraints and stereotypes on gender. Everyone has their own unique strengths and faces different challenges, so I hope one day the global norm will be to provide appropriate opportunities, resources, and rewards so everyone can collaborate as equal partners regardless of their gender.

One thing I can do to help create such a society is speak more openly about the difficulties I have faced at work as a non-Japanese female worker in Japan, and about the specific culture and policies at Mercari that have helped me perform better. I want girls and young women to be able to easily find someone they can empathize with and look up to so that they don’t have to walk through life alone, and so that they can live their lives while benefiting from having people who can support them by offering advice!
Phuong Nguyen

Suwen Weng (Manager, Transaction & Shipping Team)

I believe we need to do a better job investing in early education to provide equal opportunities for everyone in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This will require the support of schools, families, and society as a whole to remove the stereotype that boys are better at math and science, or that male-dominated areas are not suitable for girls.

I myself have a 7-year-old daughter, and I hope for her to be able to explore various subjects in her early education, to see more women role models in her learning materials, and have the necessary confidence to pursue any career in the future.

Only by building an equitable educational foundation can we build a more gender-equal world, where anyone can participate in the economy and the fields of technology and science no matter their gender. Through my work at Mercari, I would like to contribute to building this educational foundation by creating educational opportunities for women and girls in these subjects with the toys, books, electronics, stationery, and knowledge circulated on our marketplace. Ultimately, my wish is for it to be easy and stress-free for parents like me to get the educational materials and tools that they need for their girls. That way, I believe we will be closer to a world where every child has equal opportunities for learning, regardless of their gender or background.
Suwen Weng

Mika Umezaki (Manager, Customer Service TnS Team)

At Mercari, there are many women managers who are also raising children. Many people struggle to balance work and family matters while managing a team to produce results, but because there are many women in our organization who work as managers, it’s easy to ask each other for advice. In my case, my manager is also a woman. We have weekly one-on-one meetings where we discuss what an ideal leader looks like and our future careers. I’ve always imagined managers as being strong leaders by vigorously leading the team to achieve their objective, but I wasn’t sure if I could do that myself. When I brought that up, my manager told me that I could lead the team in a way that made use of my strengths, and that creating an environment that my team members feel comfortable working in is also a great form of leadership. She always gives me great advice. Looking back at my experiences, it’s easy to see that having a community and people around me who I can talk to about my worries makes it much easier to work.

Going forward, I want to be a role model as a working woman. I believe that while the company should make it possible for everyone to perform at their best while balancing work and family matters, evaluation should be done on each individual’s actions and output. In order to create an environment where women in careers can thrive and be evaluated fairly regardless of their background, I want to demonstrate leadership that can create a sense of unity in the organization by staying positive and considerate for each and every person.
Mika Umezaki

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