Teacher’s guide

Case 03: A Woman Engineer in East Asia, Discussion

1. From personal experience and observation Fred had learned the importance of personal relationships in East Asia and how to build close relationships with his customers there. He also knew that if he personally introduced Kathy in those hierarchical cultures, his high status as an older, high-ranking male would raise her status in the eyes of the customers.

2. There is a tendency for people in hierarchical cultures to want to assess younger business visitors’ technical qualifications and status. Each time Fred introduced Kathy he was careful to underline her experience and high competence as an engineer. Coming from a relatively informal, egalitarian culture, Kathy’s normal business cards displayed less information than many East Asians would expect to see, so taking Fred’s advice she had new cards made listing all her academic and professional credentials.

3. Fred knew that his Hong Kong and Chinese customers were more accustomed to seeing women in positions of authority. He wanted Kathy to gain experience there before moving on to bigger challenges.

4. As Fred’s long-time local agent in Japan, Mr. Yamamoto knew that his own employees as well as the customer’s male engineers would accept Kathy, a young woman, as a credible trainer if Fred personally introduced her. But when a conflict arose so that Fred would not be present to introduce her at the meeting with the last customer, Yamamoto-san knew that Kathy would not be accepted.

5. As is the case with good local agents around the world, Mr. Yamamoto was familiar with both cultures. He feared that the Japanese engineers would make it clear that they did not accept a young woman as sufficiently competent to instruct them in a technical mater, and that Kathy would feel humiliated. To prevent this Yamamoto-san arranged a face-saving second session with his own employees.