Navigating Success as a Woman in Leadership: Insights from Workday Japan Diversity Roundtable

Workday Life
5 min readApr 18, 2024

At Workday, our vision is to Value Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity (VIBE) for all by being a workplace where all Workmates are valued for their unique perspectives, respected as equal and integral, and are given fair access to opportunity.

Within this ethos, enter Women@Workday, our Employee Belonging Council (EBC) dedicated to supporting, connecting, and empowering women and other gender minorities. Recently, the EBC had the privilege of hosting an inspiring roundtable discussion with Sophie Sharp, SVP Global Industries and Value Management, in our Tokyo office.

In a Q&A session, Sophie shared her journey in navigating the corporate world as a woman, and discussed how she’s always made it a priority to support aspiring female leaders along the way.

Here are some of our favorite highlights captured from the conversation.

Q: How did you build the foundation of your career?

A: When I graduated from college, I applied for what felt like 100 roles. I ultimately chose a Fortune 500 company in the financial services space because I really liked the hiring manager. It turns out I chose well — he is still a mentor to me to this day, almost 20 years later.

There were many challenges and changes at the company while I was there. Even in difficult times, I found growth by embracing that change and finding a way to say “Yes” to it. It was not always easy, but each new division, new team, or new boss taught me so much.

Many people I talk to about career goals are focused solely on managing for the first time or getting promoted. I encourage each of them to go a little deeper on what’s driving that desire, and reflect on how an opportunity does or doesn’t get them closer to that goal (instead of focusing too much on the title or something else less important).

Q: Do you think it’s possible to strike a true balance between work and life?

A: I don’t really believe in “work-life balance.” Those words suggest to me that you can somehow find the perfect formula to get everything done. But perfect is kind of impossible. Instead, I think about “trade-offs”- what am I going to prioritize in my day, and what do I need to let go of. Most mornings, my preschool age daughter wants to know if I can pick her up from school that day. Often, my schedule doesn’t allow it — but my husband’s schedule does. However, on Friday afternoon, I am always there to get her. I hold the time on my schedule, even if that means saying no to something else at work or otherwise. She knows she can count on me to be there, and that is important to me.

Sometimes the trade-off is more about letting my own expectations relax a little. I love to cook and aspire to make everything from scratch — but I often don’t have time to do a full meal, and in reality, the only person who really keeps score is me. So, I’ve given myself permission to compromise with some semi-homemade meals, and sometimes just with take-out.

Q: Handling feedback in the workplace can present its challenges. How have you navigated feedback throughout your career?

A: Navigating feedback regarding your “professional style” as a woman can be challenging. I am an outspoken person, and earlier in my career I would sometimes hear that I was too commanding or forceful. There was truth in the feedback, but there was also a gendered component. There is usually a kernel of truth in this feedback, so it’s important for me to have trusted people in my life who I know will be transparent with me. I lean on this circle to help me evaluate and find the truth in those situations.

Now, as a woman in a leadership position, I make a conscious effort to advocate for issues relevant to others, such as the challenges of balancing career responsibilities with family care responsibilities. I also try to pay attention to minor actions like expressing personal style choices, which can serve as a reminder that individuals should feel comfortable embracing their authentic selves in the workplace.

Q: Can you elaborate on the ways in which you support women in advancing their careers, especially in their first management roles?

I am a proud member of Women@Workday, and I am part of the executive committee for the Global Women in Sales Leadership group, a program focused on increasing the number of female managers in revenue roles. I believe real change requires substantive efforts, particularly in recruitment and supporting newcomers or early-in-career professionals in reaching their first management positions. When analyzing the progression of female leadership, it’s evident that it’s critical to get more women into their initial management roles — a crucial step often overlooked. I’m collaborating closely with other leaders to develop programs addressing this issue.

I recently had a conversation with an Account Executive who was contemplating whether to pursue a regional sales director role. She expressed concerns about timing, given her upcoming wedding and plans for a family. Supporting individuals like her in feeling like they don’t need to make the choice between taking on leadership roles and balancing personal commitments is vital. Visibility and ongoing dialogue at the leadership level are equally critical. Not to mention organizations providing benefits and programs that support caregivers of all kinds.

We’ve implemented executive sponsorship programs, mentorship within the sales team, career coaching, brand-building workshops, and community-building activities. These efforts are a collaborative endeavor between the Women in Sales Leadership team and Talent Management, with a strong emphasis on accountability at the senior level. Overall, I’m thrilled about these programs and the positive impact they’re making.

In order to see more women in leadership roles, we need allyship, and we need the help of everyone already in leadership roles to bring others along on the journey. I’m proud to work at a company that keeps its people at the center, and always looks for ways to invest in their growth.

A brighter work day is just around the corner ☀️. Explore career opportunities here. For more #WDAYLife content, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



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