The Japan Times:”Governance guru pushes Japan Inc. to open up and diversify”

Former trailblazing dean Christina Ahmadjian finds her balance between the classroom and boardroom By Kris Kosaka, June 21, 2015

Christina Ahmadjian, an academic and expert in corporate governance, sits on the boards of several Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Japan Exchange Group, the holding company that oversees the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Often the lone foreigner and only woman in the room, Ahmadjian relishes playing gadfly and applying her research to real-life situations.

“Just my presence makes a difference,” she explains, “as these company presidents are forced to answer my questions, and I have a voice to ask: ‘What effect will this decision make on your shareholders? How does this affect other stakeholders?’ “

Ahmadjian welcomes recent moves to open up corporate governance in Japan, buoyed by support from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has introduced a range of measures to shake up the membership of Japan Inc.’s notoriously insular company boards.

Ahmadjian has been pushing for more transparent governance since 2000, when she came to Japan for research. It’s a cause she brought with her to her last job as trailblazing dean of Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy and her current post as professor at Hitotsubashi’s Graduate School of Commerce and Management.

It’s an upstream battle, and some days Ahmadjian admits she feels like she’s just treading water.

“Every second has been a real challenge,” she says. “I just feel a true mission to make things better in the boardroom — to give people more of a global outlook and a way to enable companies to accept diversity, to understand how to manage globally.””

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The Board Director Training Institute (BDTI) is a "public interest" nonprofit in Japan dedicated to training about directorship, corporate governance, and related management techniques. It is certified by the Japanese government to conduct these activities as a regulated nonprofit. Read a summary about BDTI here, and see a menu of its services for both corporations and investors here.

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