Image: Irwin Wong for Forbes
In 1973, Yoshiko Shinohara resolved to fix a problem in her native Japan: Too many women were being pushed down the traditional path of marriage and child rearing. “I was born in a family where my mother was a midwife and my father was a school principal. . . Women working was always in the back of my mind,” Shinohara told Forbes Asia in 2015. “The importance of women being able to work as well as raise children left an indelible impression.” From a cramped Tokyo apartment, Shinohara, who was married only briefly, founded a staffing business, Tempstaff, which focussed on finding part-time jobs for women.
Tempstaff later expanded to men and found particular success in the 1990s when Japan’s stagnation forced downsizing firms to hire part-timers. Shinohara took the company public in 2006, and it was rolled into Temp Holdings two years later. With Temp’s stock up 50 percent in the past year, she now commands a $1 billion fortune. She still owns a quarter of the $4 billion (sales) firm and stepped down as chairman only last April; she remains chairman emeritus.
At 82, she may no longer lead the business, but Temp Holdings is well-positioned for growth in the coming decade. Economists say Japan’s ageing population could create a shortfall of roughly 6 million workers—with companies like Shinohara’s filling the gap.
(This story appears in the 17 March, 2017 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)