Japan's First Self-Made Female Billionaire Defied Japanese Culture

Eighty-two-year-old Yoshiko Shinohara just became Japan's first self-made female billionaire, Forbes reports.

Founding a temp-staffing company in her one-bedroom Tokyo apartment in 1973, Shinohara now joins a small group of just 26 other self-made female billionaires in Asia — all originating from either China or Hong Kong.

Shinohara founded TempStaff at a time in Japanese history when women had to check with their husbands first before applying for a temp job.

"Society was dominated by men with most women working in assistant roles, and there were few opportunities to actively participate," she told the Financial Times in 2010. "It was then I thought I would broaden the workplaces where women could apply their skills, so I launched TempStaff."

Shinohara never graduated from college and divorced from her husband in her 20s, but held onto her entrepreneurial spirit and acted on an opportunity.

"I want to contribute to society through business," she said.

Temp became globally successful based on two events, Shinohara claims. One was the decision to hire male managers, allowing the company to gain larger mainstream traction, and the other was the economic stagnation of the 90s when companies avoided hiring full-time employees, and instead turned to Temp and its workers, TIME reports.

Describing her leadership style as "hermit-crab management," Shinohara elaborates: "Born small, the scale of the hermit crab's shell is appropriate to that stage of its life. As TempStaff has grown, so have its organizational structures and systems."

Today, the publicly traded company, known as Temp Holdings, has 313 offices globally and reported revenues of $4.5 billion last year. Forbes says that with a 25 percent stake, the recent 12 percent gain in Temp has put Shinohara over the nine-figure mark.

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