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Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012

World Bank needs more, outgoing Japanese: exec

Staff writer

The World Bank Group wants more Japanese among its ranks as it makes further efforts to rid the world of poverty, believing their skill sets would be a valuable resource.

News photo
Personnel quest: Dorothy Hamachi Berry poses at the World Bank office in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday. MAKI SUZUKI

Japanese workers, however, have increasingly turned away from global-oriented careers, focusing on higher education and employment closer to home.

Dorothy Hamachi Berry, vice president of human resources, communications and administration at the International Finance Corp., an arm of the World Bank Group, said Japanese employees offer quality and strong work ethics.

"I think the world is missing out somehow because of the contributions that Japan can make," Berry told The Japan Times in an interview last week during the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. IFC's task is to finance and advise private-sector ventures in developing countries.

Although Japan is the World Bank Group's second-largest monetary backer, it employs only about 250 Japanese out of a workforce of 15,000 representing more than 168 countries.

The group, however, said it has managed through aggressive recruiting to attract more Japanese applicants over the past five years, even though fewer Japanese are pursuing higher education in the United States.

The recent IMF-World Bank Group gathering, the first hosted by Tokyo in 48 years, saw the group capitalize on the opportunity to tout its activities. They invited about 60 potential private- and public-sector candidates to a session where Japanese workers in the group talked about their projects and gave tips on global careers.

Berry noted the Japanese in the group are a good fit because almost all of the projects require a team effort, for which they have a knack.

"What we are trying to do is . . . find ways to get the word out that there is exciting work to be done and exciting values they can bring to international organizations," Berry said.

Berry, who spent the first 16 years of her life in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, believes Japanese are competitive.

She moved to New Jersey in 1968 with her Japanese-American father and Japanese mother but faced cultural differences in an all-white high school. Berry, who calls herself a strong introvert, was at first intimidated by her outspoken classmates. But she pushed herself to come out of her shell, in the process taking a drama class to feel more comfortable in front of others.

"You either take the initiative and speak out, or there are no opportunities for you," she said.

As her career progressed, Berry became the first female director of the Federal Aviation Agency. She was also the only female World Bank vice president when she started working there in 1996.

But holding executive positions as a young woman came with a cost. She faced setbacks, and sexual harassment. But she said being Japanese helped her face those challenges because of her calm nature.

Berry said Japanese workers should focus more on the global environment. The World Bank Group values self-starters who take the initiative, she said, but noted the Japanese workforce tends to wait for instructions before acting.

Testing one's limits is important in achieving success, Berry said.

"You learn most when you are thrust into situations where you really have to look for an answer rather than know what you are supposed to do," she said. "Taking risks in your career is important."

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