Interview with Yukiko Inoue, Managing Director of Altavia Japan

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Yukiko Inoue has been leading Altavia Japan for 4 years

Could you tell us a bit more about your background?

I began my career here in Japan at Hello Kitty, where I worked in the field of graphic design for the American and European markets. This initial and very enriching experience gave me an insight into the graphic chain and the various media involved and, driven by my youth and my desire to explore the world, I consequently decided to go and live abroad. It was purely by chance (and especially by luck) that I got the opportunity to work at a start-up company in France, in Paris, and I ended up staying there for 15 years! I got a lot out of this experience, learning and speaking a language that was previously foreign to me on a daily basis and working both on and offline in a multicultural and international environment.

 

It was four years ago that I decided to move back to Tokyo – a decision that would lead to me taking over the reins of Altavia Japan as Managing Director.

 

As a woman, have you encountered any difficulties in the positions of responsibility that you have held so far and if so, what form have they taken?

I often go to meetings with clients accompanied by Altavia Japan’s Production Manager and because of this, and especially because he is not only a man but also a French national, most people assume that he is the boss of Altavia Japan. It has to be said that it’s very rare in Japan for a company to be run by a woman!

 

I also work a lot with professionals in the printing industry, which is a very traditional industry in Japan, and few women hold managerial positions in this sector. When I talk about innovation and modern working and production methods, I generally get the impression that other people feel uncomfortable, so I have to be very careful how I communicate because they are key partners where our business is concerned.

 

I also experience certain difficulties when it comes to recruitment. As far as I’m concerned, I make no distinction between men and women because I believe that skills and talent come first. The only thing is, it’s not uncommon for Japanese women to deny themselves the right to be their own boss, to be ambitious and to occupy positions of responsibility. As far as they’re concerned, such responsibilities should be borne by men. The (very traditional) social model that still prevails in Japan is clearly not easy on women, and I actually have a lot of female friends who have given up their careers to devote themselves to raising their children.

 

What made you want to join the Altavia group?

Altavia takes social and environmental responsibility very seriously and consequently became a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact in 2008, achieving Advanced level in 2018. This is the highest level of performance an organisation can achieve in terms of social responsibility, and it’s very important to me. In Japan, of course, there is a lot of talk about CSR, but compared to France we are way behind; there are still a lot of plastic bags in use, too much packaging, a lot of gender inequality, very little help for those in difficulty, etc., and we need to learn and to innovate if our society is to evolve with as little environmental impact as possible. Working at Altavia allows me to acquire the knowledge I need to move forward in this respect.

 

Describe a typical day at the helm of Altavia Japan. 

I start very early in the morning, starting my day reading newspapers and listening to the radio in French. Then I go through my emails and prepare for the day ahead, which can entail attending appointments at clients’ premises, meetings, sharing information with the French teams… that sort of thing.

After work, I regularly play ‘GO’ in a special club, and I’m not ashamed to say that most of the players are older men (laughs). I’m a pretty average player but I really like the game, not least because it’s economical and therefore accessible to everyone. I also like the strategic aspect of GO.

 

What are your medium- and long-term plans and goals?

My goal is to accelerate Altavia Japan’s colour management business because our solution offers a win-win situation! It’s often said that Japan is resistant to change and that it takes an incredibly long time to evolve, but things will move faster in this respect than we think, I’m sure of it. It’s difficult to set long-term goals these days because the world is changing so quickly, but if I had to have one objective, it would be to drastically reduce the impact that our business has on the environment and to continue to move forward and innovate to promote a ‘sustainable’ world.