Celebrating International Women’s Day in Japan
From full-time mom to travel industry business development manager, regional leader and now General Manager of FCM Japan, Asami Chung is at the top of her game and proud of her team. Despite her success, Asami doesn’t take herself too seriously and believes in creating the right workplace environment, where people work hard but have fun while doing it. Read Asami’s story.
Tell us about your career and how you secured your position at FCM.
I started my career in my 30s. Up until then I had been a full-time mom living in the USA. I decided to rent properties as a short-term rental business. I lugged my little children around with me as I travelled from apartment to apartment greeting guests and cleaning each place.
I then moved from the US to Japan and Korea, where I got my first corporate job, working in the travel industry. Early on in my career, I changed jobs quite often because I clashed with people that I worked with. Honestly at the start, I found corporate life tough. But those early stages were a necessary learning curve that helped me to grow as a professional, and as a person. It’s quite fundamental, but I learned to care about things that were beyond my role or my function. I became a big believer in the power of helping not just myself but others to work more effectively across different functions.
I believe my success at FCM isn’t based on my glorious career history, but rather because the business has enabled me to grow into being a leader who cares for the people that make up the business as well as the business.
Japan is recognised as a socially conservative country, where change is slow. How can this be overcome to ensure more gender equity in leadership positions?
I’m a firm believer in celebrating not only women’s careers, but their lives. In Japan, mothers tend to have the lion’s share of childcare responsibilities. There are also far more single moms than single dads. However, now that more companies are willing to provide flexible working conditions including flexible hours and remote working arrangements, like we do at FCM Japan, women can develop their careers without feeling guilty. Flexible working environments mean that women (and men!) will more often than not, be able to make it home in time for dinner or make it to an important event with their loved ones. Fortunately, there are many female leaders in the travel industry, even in Japan!
The next generation’s expectations for workplace culture and conditions, will eventually move even the most traditional of companies, particularly if those businesses want to stay relevant and appealing to prospective employees.
As a female, have you overcome challenges as you shifted into management?
My challenges were more personal than societal. We all struggle with imposter syndrome; we all lowball our abilities. Studies show that women do it more than men. So, with this knowledge, I had to battle my inner thoughts that constantly tell me I am not worthy. The truth is, I am not going to be doing anything alone because there are wonderful, very smart people around me, to help the business collectively achieve its goals.
I realize it’s an honour to be involved in the business as a leader and lean on my team for their individual talents and strengths.
The focus for International Women’s Day’s this year is #EmbraceEquity, how do you ensure equality between genders in the workplace?
I don’t want to focus too much on just gender, but on diversity. I prefer to focus on the individuals and appreciate the diverse talents that are brought to the table. Because when we can do that, I feel that we can proudly say we are collectively, FCM Japan.
What advice to you have for the next generation of professionals?
Don’t let work define you. Work is something you do, not who you are. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Work hard, but have fun while you’re doing it.
The definition of ‘fun’ can be different for people, but for me, it’s being in an environment with people I can trust (a sense of humor is always great also!); it’s a place where I can encourage people to be their best and they encourage me. To me, a satisfying role is one that provides you with enough of a challenge to keep you on my toes and continue growing. Sometimes, you’ll fall into a great environment, and other times, you help to create that environment.