Meet the 82-Year-Old Who Just Became Japan’s First Self-Made Female Billionaire

Yoshiko Shinohara is the 82-year-old founder of Temp Holdings who recently became Japan’s first self-made female billionaire.

Shinohara’s amazing rise to the top began over forty years ago when she started her temp staffing firm in her one-bedroom apartment. All she had then was her high school degree, some experience in her previous secretarial jobs and the determination to succeed.

According to Forbes, Shinohara has recently stepped down as chairman of her company which earned $4.5 billion in revenues last year. Her 25% stake in the company is now approximated to be worth over $1 billion after a recent spike in the firm’s stock which grew 11.5% by the end of last year. She also has accrued significant dividends over the years.

Her new billionaire status now places her among the elite group of self-made women billionaires in Asia. There are now 27 Asian women in the three comma club, most of whom come from China or Hong Kong.

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Shinohara’s story took form in 1930s in Japan, where she grew up, raised by a single mother in the backdrop of World War II. After her father died when she was eight years old, her mother focused on taking care of her and decided never to remarry again.

Soon after finishing high school, she got married but soon divorced in her early 20s.

“Soon after my wedding, I realized that I would rather not be married, that this was not the right person for me. So I decided I had better divorce as soon as possible,” Shinohara told Harvard Business Review in 2009. “After the divorce, I said, ‘I have to do something with myself.'” 

She eventually went abroad and found work in England and later Australia as a secretary.

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She would later return to Tokyo where she eventually began a part-time work agency inside her 258 square foot one-bedroom apartment. It took Shinohara five years before the business was moved into its first office space. Four decades later, her small business has become a multi-billion-dollar company.

Temp Holdings spokeswoman Yoko Somura told Forbes that Shinohara’s business helped transform a common issue in Japanese society.

Somura noted that during those times, it was typical for women to quit working after getting marriage so “many women of certain age felt ‘uncomfortable’ to continue their careers.” Those women who actually wanted to continue working were left with few opportunities.

“Our company was able to grow by matching Japanese women’s underlying motive,” Somura said.

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Shinohara had previously stated in an earlier interview that it was in fact, part of her plan.

“Education and women working always were in the back of my mind,” she told Forbes back in 2015. “The importance of women being able to work as well as raise children left an indelible impression.”

Known for her ability to adapt to the challenges of the business, the pioneering female executive was not afraid to change. While she would eventually hire male employees, Shinohara’s firm hired only female employees during a significant period in the beginning.

When Shinohara left the company, it became a multi-faceted firm which provides recruiting, outsourcing, consulting and systems development to thousands of companies in Japan and 13 other countries.

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Feature Image via JapanTimes

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