A Sony Visit was held in the Creative Lounge on the first floor of Sony Head Office on Wednesday August 31, 2016. The objective of the visit was to encourage interest in the engineering sector and deepen understanding of corporate monozukuri as a part of the Program for Supporting the Research Activities of Female Researchers (Joint Research Program)* aimed at female undergraduates and graduate students in Japan. The program is a joint activity by Ochanomizu University, Shibaura Institute of Technology and the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). Following a similar visit in 2015, 25 students took part this year.
A report on the visit follows.
General Manager Kitajima of Sony's Human Resources Division started the procedures off with an overview of Sony Group companies, and introduced the activities of young employees. He went on to explain Sony's diversity initiatives and measures to promote activities for women, the key point of interest for the participants. Society has only recently started paying attention to diversity, and most companies are relatively new to such initiatives, yet Sony actually appointed its first female manager as far back as 1973. Mr.Kitajima said that Sony has steadily maintained its approach to these areas since. He introduced numerous cases where female employees have been active as engineers and researchers, have fulfilled a wide range of occupational responsibilities, and have taken advantage of the favorable workplace conditions to seize opportunities for overseas postings and rotation into different jobs.
The Creative Lounge provides a space which anyone from inside or outside the company, whether they are Sony employees or external stakeholders, can use for active discussions or for promoting independent R&D within the company. The participants were fascinated when he explained how the Seed Acceleration Program (SAP), an original Sony program for developing new businesses has been created at this spot, providing the basis for an "Idea Creation Zone" for commercializing employees' ideas.
It was very impressive to see how enthusiastically the students listened to explanations about the 3D printers and other electronic tools and equipment on display all around the Creative Lounge.
Three female employees were among those who took part in round-table discussions with the attendees: an audio speaker design engineer; a camera design engineer who graduated from an overseas university and is now a working mother; and an engineer who made a career change to Human Resources. Splitting up into small groups, the students listened to self-introductions by the female employees, who spoke about why they aspired to a career in engineering, and what their work entailed, before answering questions.
The female employees spoke frankly but humorously about their approach to the life events that are unique to women, and the issues they face in a workplace where males are in the majority, while answering many questions from the students. In this way, they helped expand the students' image of what it is like to be a female engineer and about working in technology.
The engineer from oversea also shared the challenges she met working away from home, and at the same time the achievements she enjoyed. There were also several groups which engaged in discussion about the motivations in working at global environment. Speakers received various reactions from the participants (or there are various reactions from the participants): "The words of the female engineers inspired me," said one; "I got the impression that they face various challenges within the company, and that working there is great fun," said another. Following the round-table discussions, Ms. Asai, Senior Manager of the Human Resources Division concluded the event by speaking about the company's hopes for greater participation by women, and told the participants that the future for female engineers was particularly bright, with a broad range of opportunities open to them.
Several students commented on the event. One said, "I always had a strong image of Sony as a consumer electronics company, but I was excited to learn that it is involved in many more areas than I had thought, including imaging technologies such as games and movies." Another remarked, "The demonstrations of Sony technologies were fascinating. It was a really valuable experience. The comments from female engineers were extremely useful from the perspective of considering my own career." It seems pretty clear that although the event only lasted for a few hours, the participants were able to obtain a clear overall idea of Sony, and experience for themselves the in-house atmosphere and the company's initiatives in the area of diversity.