Reiko Abe


By: Natalie Obiko Pearson Reiko Abe became a civil engineer in Japan, but she couldn’t find a job. An ancient Shinto superstition, made part of Japan’s labor law, held that if a woman entered a tunnel under construction, she would anger the jealous mountain goddess and cause worker accidents. Two decades later, Abe has become the face of Japan’s global engagement as the nation seeks to overcome its image as an economic laggard and a wasteland for career women. Television advertisements featuring her have run on CNN and the BBC. She’s been lauded by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (no relation) for showcasing Japan’s strengths abroad and symbolizing why the country needs to promote more women in a workforce where less than 5 percent of managers are female. The irony is that Abe, 51, had to leave Japan. After overseeing construction safety on Indian metro projects for seven years, she’s been…