Ms Aoba Nezu – Arts as medium for Business

What she does and how she got started? 

4 years ago, she was a program officer at a public incorporated company that aims to bridge cooperations with the arts. She realised that many companies relegated arts to the peripherals. However, she saw the value of arts to business and wanted to harness it.

Now, she runs her own consulting firm that provides business strategies using arts, culture and even sports as a medium.

For example, many large companies have their power centred mainly in the hands of old men and the young people are constantly trapped in lower level jobs. Due to the ageing society, there are fewer opportunities for young people to rise through the ranks and older staff hoard the higher positions, Young people also tend to change jobs more frequently because of the stagnation of opportunities.

This creates a divide in the office between the young and old. To bridge the divide, she organises company bonding workshops that uses arts to foster more opportunities for honest communication between different levels of staff. (using one of Shakespeare’s plays, the team (compromising of both senior and junior staff) have to recreate a scene. However, the junior officers are given the roles as stage directors and the senior staff have to follow along. Such reversal in roles show older staff the capabilities of junior staff and give junior staff more confidence.)

On how she’s so convinced that the Japanese work culture needs changing

After living and working in the west for more than half her life, she grew to realise how stifling and rigid the Japanese work culture was. As a result, there is a talent outflow from Japan. Coupled with the aging population, power in Japanese companies is over centralised in the hands of older workers. But the young people are the ones who have to pay taxes and take care of the ageing population. She feels that she wants to reshape the working culture to create a more conducive/nurturing/embracing/encouraging environment for young people.

On gender related challenges in the workplace and how to navigate around them

She acknowledges that many people in top leadership positions in the corporate world are male and naturally the idea that women are ill-equipped to be rational and decisive is still pervasive.

Even with the government encouraging more women to enter the workforce, the ground is still resistant to the change in mindset. In response, she feels that this can be overcome by women using logic to defeat overly misogynistic men. She shared that during presentations, she counters negative perceptions of women in business by being extra logical and decisive and adopts a no nonsense approach. She believes defeating one by logic is the best way to reshape perceptions.

On whether women entrepreneurship is a possible key to breaking the glass ceiling…

She feels that currently there is little government support to encourage women Entreprenuership. When women want to start their own business, they are usually advised to start as an NPO. This already reveals society’s perception that entrepreneurship is risky and more so women entrepreneurs.

She feels that there should also be skills retraining and design thinking course to reshape how women think because they have been repeatedly forced towards thinking in a box and might not be aware of their entrepreneurship potential and their possible opportunities entrepreneurship can bring.



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