from Japan

Rie Ohno Wants Women To Be Themselves

Rie Ohno Career Fly CEO



Rie Ohno founded her company Career Fly Corp in 2015. CFC matches Japanese companies with international women in STEM. Their mission is to cultivate diversity in the Japanese workplace.

When It Comes To Makeup, Less Is More

Yasuo How does your daily routine compare to the makeover that we did today? 

Rie The approach was actually quite similar to what I do on a daily basis. But of course, your professional touch makes all the difference, and really helped highlight certain features that I often overlook.

Yasuo You’re so pretty and have such clearly defined features, so you don’t need much makeup. Do you ever find yourself overdoing it?

Rie Personally, I feel like less is more. Watching the techniques you used today made me want to try them more on my own time. 

Yasuo What sort of makeup do you wear for parties?

Rie I want to try more exciting things, but I typically always go with the same look—something that enhances my face and pairs well with whatever outfit I’m wearing. 

Yasuo That’s good!  So many people often go overboard for special occasions, which can detract from their clothing. I think fancier the dress, the simpler the hair and makeup should be.  

Rie I am always careful not to go overboard with makeup.  And beautiful skin is the basis for simple makeup.  For a while, my skin had so many issues, and even though I tried many different products, nothing seemed to work. Then a salon owner introduced me to Renge Lotion  from Enoko Shop, and it’s absolutely magical. It’s so inexpensive that I use it all the time. The lemon extract acts as both an antioxidant and a moisturizer. When my skin is balanced, I’ll use my favorite foundation very sparingly.  I love Shu Uemura’s powder based foundations because they blend well with my skin tone and have a natural finish. 

Yasuo All you need is wonderful skin and a little bit of makeup. That’s the best look you could ever have.

Rie I had a lot of fun with makeup when I was younger. 

Yasuo What changed?

Rie I think founding Career Fly changed a lot for me. It’s a small start-up, and as the head of the company, I began thinking a lot more about my image. I want to be a positive presence for both my employees and clients. I started to pay more attention to my personal details, such as not wearing incredibly heavy perfumes. I’ve grown to really love perfume oils because they’re subtle yet sweet.  I apply them to my neck every morning.  My favorites are the ones by Malie Organics, particularly their plumeria and coconut vanilla scents.

Yasuo I looked at your company’s website before our meeting today. I love the photo of you with your big smile, it really gives a sense of your energy. I was honestly a little intimidated to meet you, thinking you would be this big female executive type. But you don’t radiate that sort of image at all. 

Rie I grew up with two brothers, and I’m the youngest of three. I was pretty spoiled and coddled. I easily gave up on things and had poor communication skills. As I entered the workplace and joined corporate culture, I was fortunate to have many positive mentors that taught me the value of good communication. Being conscious of what you say and how you say it is not always an easy feat. 

Yasuo What makes someone an effective communicator? 

Rie Stepping back and learning how to listen. Emotional attentiveness is key. When people start off meetings by asking me questions, I always make sure to deflect back by asking them their own opinions. 

Yasuo Listening to people can be harder than it seems. I learned that firsthand while conducting interviews for this blog. I only realized when replaying the audio post-interview that I have a tendency to stop the other person and give my own input, which can be so frustrating. You definitely listen to all that I’m saying. 

Rie I actually don’t like to talk that much and used to get so nervous before speaking to large crowds. But now, I’ve mastered the art of turning “on and off.” 

Out with The Old, In with The New

Yasuo What exactly does Career Fly Corp do?

Rie We are an agency that recruits international women with STEM backgrounds. By bringing them into our businesses, Japanese industries can get a sense of what they’re missing out on. Our motto is “different is normal.” Diversity is critical to the growth of Japanese business. As it currently stands, most companies are composed entirely of Japanese people. We’re a very homogenous culture, and we expect people to share our value systems and beliefs. If we can incorporate women from different global backgrounds, then Japanese corporate culture will take note of the positive impacts that they can have on our growth, and hopefully make moves to become more diverse. 

Yasuo Large Japanese companies are still mainly dominated by men, so I’m sure adding a woman or a foreigner would make a huge impact. 

Rie The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  By introducing STEM into a workplace, positive changes come about. 

Yasuo Gender should not matter when it comes to scientific and technological advancements. There have to be some Japanese women working in these fields? 

Rie In terms of businesses, not really. Most technological schools only have a handful of women. However, these issues are largely because of Japan’s educational system. Women are generally pushed towards the liberal arts because there is a false belief that they won’t excel in STEM. 

Yasuo It sounds like we need to start encouraging young women to pursue these fields in order to enact real cultural change. 

On Changing the Status-Quo

Yasuo How did you come up with the idea of matching corporations with female professionals from overseas?

Rie I lived in Sydney for three years and was very influenced by the diversity present in Australian culture. Living there was quite comfortable because people are used to dealing with foreign cultures. That different approach to life greatly impacted my personal way of thinking about diversity. Having this mentality sets our company apart from similar agencies. 

Yasuo Do you have to be able to speak Japanese for consideration? 

Rie Most Japanese companies communicate primarily in Japanese. But many start-ups and venture companies welcome candidates based on their professional and technical skills, so English is acceptable.

In Japan, anyone who is not Japanese is called a “gaizin,” a foreigner.  Japanese people should consider more ways that we can welcome people from all over the world.

Yasuo America is widely considered to be a cultural melting pot. Although many cultures live side by side, they don’t really mix on a private level. The desire to maintain homogeneity is not necessarily unique to Japan. But unlike Japan, American culture forces you to accept and respect each other’s differences. We don’t get that kind of encouragement or exposure in Japan. That’s why things like the Tokyo Olympics are such a unique opportunity for the country.

Rie I agree. As an island nation, there’s no real push to learn the English language. 

Yasuo Even though new technology is rapidly expanding our world, Japan is still hung up on old practices and traditions. There is a notion that everyone should act the same way and value the same things—sort of these unspoken rules which are definitely present in Japanese modes of business. I wonder if that’s why the Japanese are so bad at conversing. 

Rie For starters, older generations should be in conversation with younger ones. Generational gaps are a real thing, and if you can master the challenge of speaking to people of varying ages, then you can speak to people from other countries. 

Yasuo You’re so right. Older generations have a tendency to reject more progressive ideas. 

Rie That’s because older generations prefer to practice avoidance. They don’t want to change the habits that they’ve held for so long. In the corporate world, there’s a tendency to conceal honest feedback from people who are higher up the ladder. I’ve been very conscious of creating a work environment that welcomes constructive criticism towards superiors. 


A Woman’s Work Is Never Finished

Yasuo What do you hope to achieve by focusing on women in the Japanese workplace and beyond?

Rie Although we discuss women’s equality, the numbers aren’t really changing. I personally believe that a woman’s key to freedom comes from financial independence. There needs to be more cultural support towards this goal.

Yasuo I totally understand that—so many women remain in unhappy marriages because they feel that they can’t support themselves.

Rie It is unfortunate how many Japanese women feel as though there’s no way out. Women shouldn’t get stuck in those situations. They should feel empowered to make the best choices for themselves without shame. 

Yasuo Although America has made considerable progress over the last several decades, men were considered the head of household throughout much of the 1950’s. In Japan, it’s still very much that way, and more progress needs to be made in terms of supporting working women. With each new generation, however, there comes new opportunities to change for the better. 

Rie I thought America was a progressive country until Hillary Clinton lost the presidency. That made me realize that we still have a long way to go.

Yasuo Yes, there are conservatives in the [American] office now. 

Rie I want to make a difference for Japanese women, even if it’s only one woman at a time. My hope is that having international women come and work in Japanese marketplaces will inspire Japanese women to do the same. I want there to be better working environments for women everywhere, even if it’s only part time. Housekeeping and childcare should not strictly be a woman’s duty, and these days, more households are embracing a more progressive lifestyle where both partners work. In the future, I hope that responsibilities will not be gendered, and that men and women alike can share in professional and personal success. 


Photos / Interview : Yasuo Yoshikawa

Text : Mikako Koyama