Makiko Matsuda Healy

Managing Director, Tourism Market Development, NYC & Company

Establishing gender equality from early childhood, education for all is the number one action we, as a society can take. Everything goes back to the core values that are shaped in our childhood… my mother educated me to be independent, think for and take care of myself, and be ready to face the world. Imagine what that society would be like if its institutions did the same as she did.

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Power Woman”?

– A strong sense of herself
– Care about others
– Contagious and consistent positive energy
– Tenacity
…in a sense, a power woman is a woman who can say “No”, and a woman who won’t take “No” for an answer.

What benefits and advantages does a company with positive gender equality have over a male-dominated workplace?

Companies with positive gender equality can more readily embrace other equalities because equality is woven into the fabric of their organization. Equity and inclusivity is good business practice. For example, in the travel industry, there are market segments, such as LGBTQ+, Muslim, and Accessible Travel. A more diverse and equitable workforce enables a company to identify and pursue these real business opportunities. Overcoming inequality should be seen as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Is there one particular issue in your life you are passionate about? Something that overides all of your objectivity?

I did not encounter people with disabilities until I came to the US as an international student. I made a friend in college with accessibility challenges. Since then, I’ve been passionate about Accessible Travel for people with disabilities. Accessibility is often overlooked in the subject of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). New York City welcomed over 66 million visitors pre-Covid; out of the 66 million, 9 million visitors had some form of disability, according to the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD). Making travel accessible for people with disabilities not only makes ethical sense but also business sense.

I am on the advisory board of TravelAbility, with the mission to inspire and educate the travel industry to provide accessible experiences to help people with disabilities enjoy travel.

What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take toward en-powering women and gender equality?
(e.g. affirmative action)? What can we do to continue to support and enhance the growth and presence of women in high-profile positions?

Establishing gender equality from early childhood education for all is the number one action we, as a society can take. Everything goes back to the core values that are shaped in our childhood.

Growing up in Japan, which is a male dominant society, my mother encouraged me to read rather than learn how to cook, and educated me to be independent, think for and take care of myself, and be ready to face the world. Imagine what that society would be like if its institutions (educational, governmental, private sector) did the same as she did.

Can you tell us a short story in which you encountered a block due to your gender?

It has happened but I usually don’t hold these negative experiences. I try to learn from them and move on.

Do you think that asking previous salary requirements in job interviews contributes to the pay gap between women and men? Should we push for a nationwide ban?

Yes, I do. Yes, we should. The EU Commission has already proposed a similar directive. If the US does not adopt the policy, the country will lose competitiveness to secure quality talent. Covid accelerated the ease of remote work. Talented women in the US could choose to work for EU companies.

Should the USA reduce its role on the world stage?

It is important that the US continues its position on the world stage. It is important that the superpower be democratic and be a country where a variety of perspectives from different parts of the world is already reflected in what the country represents. The US should take stronger initiatives on SDGs, especially Gender Equality, and the environment.

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?

Raised to be independent, I funded my US college education on my own. I worked three jobs to raise money before I came to the US. Having completed my intended course, I decided to continue my studies, but I had depleted my funds. I researched various scholarship programs for international students, yet nothing was available. I presented to my college reasons why they should create a scholarship for me and managed to convince them that I was a good investment. Although there was no scholarship program for students like me, I persuaded them to make one. I learned that I need not take “No” for an answer.

Another moment was when I was 5 or 6 years old. I went to Yoyogi Park (Central Park of Tokyo) with my family and got separated from them. I calmly walked into the park office, and I said to the staff “Excuse me, my mother and my sister are lost. Can you please help me find them?” Already at an early age, I learned that I had confidence and agency.

Is “Education, education and education” one of the top three responsibilities of a civilized society? If not why not?

Yes, it is. But education in the US has serious issues. There are great inequalities – a child’s zip code, which they have no control over, can determine the quality of their education. Higher education is too expensive for many.

Education in the US should focus more on civics, civil and social responsibilities, and respect for the community and oneself.

If you could have someone else’s job for a day, who and what would it be? Why?

George Mallory, the mountaineer. I am just simply fascinated by his lifework. I am an explorer by nature. I would enjoy all the discoveries and challenges.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Think about someone else’s perspective before you act.

What is your favorite book (fiction or non-fiction)?

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

What do you most value in your friends?


Which trait do you most uncomfortable in yourself? In others?

The Inability to answer personal questions that make me feel uncomfortable!

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


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