As the world unites to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday March 8, calling for a more gender balanced world, Lane End Conference Centre celebrates the phenomenal woman at its helm, Chairperson, Teruko Iwanaga OBE.
The words of advice from Teruko to women in business at present are simple but powerful, ‘if you are confident in what you are doing and work hard, anything is achievable,’ working hard is something that she has done throughout her career and here she tells us about her business journey to where she is today.
“After graduating from university in Japan in the early 1970s, I came straight to Britain. This was the second time I had been in Britain as I was brought up here from the age of eleven for four and a half years when my father’s work was transferred to London and all my family came here to live.
“I went to an English school as in those days there were no Japanese schools in London. In fact, I went to two different schools in London before going back to Japan. In total, I went to six different schools in London and Tokyo and, I am sure, this gave me a good opportunity to be adaptable and get on with different types of people.
“It was a real pleasure then to help with the opening of the first Japanese boarding school in England in the early 1970s where I worked as an administrator before joining HTS Management Holdings in 1973.
“Dr Barry, the then Chairman and founder of HTS, recruited me and asked me to set up an educational institution to train Japanese business people. I was around 25 at that time and had no real business experience but I was fortunate that Dr Barry trusted me with this job and gave me free rein to start using my initiative to create a British company with the main market in Japan. This was how I started EJEF, formerly Euro-Japanese Exchange Foundation.”
Teruko’s confidence and hard work paid off as she developed her contacts from the Japanese boarding school and built relationships with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) who started sending their young diplomats to EJEF in 1981 and, to date, over 530 Japanese diplomats have studied diplomatic English at EJEF. Many of the training courses for EJEF takes place at Lane End Conference Centre.
“From 1985 to 1990, I had another job alongside EJEF which was a voluntary job to raise 5 million pounds to build a permanent Japanese Gallery at the British Museum to exhibit and conserve its valuable collection of Japanese art.
“I was appointed as the Appeal Organiser for this five-year fund raising project. It was a daunting task and, if I were asked now, I would not have had the courage to do it but, in my youth, I was fearless and ignorant of how hard it would be, and I took on the challenge.
“Again, I was very fortunate that I was able to use my business contacts to get advice and assistance which was invaluable and I was able to form a fund-raising Advisory Committee consisting of some 30 company chairs and presidents both in Japan and in Britain.
“It took a whole year to form these Committees but they started producing results. The end result was that it was the biggest and most successful appeal in the British Museum’s history achieving its target amount of over 5 million pounds through the generosity of 27 Japanese industrial associations involving 1020 member companies of the associations, 66 Japanese and British companies and 61 private individuals.
“The permanent Japanese Gallery comprising a series of three galleries, a students’ room and storage for the Museum’s Japanese items was built as a whole new floor over the Western half of the King Edward VII building without in any way altering the outside aspect. The British Museum Japanese Gallery was opened by His Imperial Highness Prince Fumihito on the 6th April 1990.”
Teruko says that she is often asked if she has had to work harder because she is a woman and especially as Japan is seen as male orientated country but she has never felt so. Interestingly her advice to her 16 year old self would be, ‘Be more serious. Concentrate on what you are doing. Study harder.’ Her hard work and achievements have not gone unnoticed by both the British and Japanese governments,
“I was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) by the British Government in 1990 for this achievement.
“I was also awarded a Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation in 2014 and the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, from the Japanese Emperor in 2018 for my contribution to the promotion of the English language in Japan and of the Japanese language in Britain.”
The team at Lane End will be celebrating International Women’s Day with a drinks reception for staff as the residential conference centre is marking its Golden Anniversary milestone with a year-long programme of showcase events and celebrations with customers, agents and staff.