Humans of IEEE WIE refers to a dedicated WIE volunteer who is well known for his/her notable contribution to IEEE WIE.

IEEE WIE: Please give us a brief introduction about you and your family.

Takako: I am Takako Hashimoto, currently serving as the Vice President and Professor at the Faculty of Commerce and Economics at the Chiba University of Commerce. I graduated from Ochanomizu University in Japan. I received a Ph.D. in computer science with a specialization in multimedia information processing, from the Graduate School of Systems and Information Engineering of the University of Tsukuba in 2005.
I worked at the software R&D center of Ricoh Co. Ltd., in Japan for 24 years, and participated in the development of many software products as a technical leader. From April of 2009, I moved to Chiba University of Commerce to be a Professor there. In 2015, I was a visiting researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. I have focused on data mining research and social media analysis, especially topic extraction from millions of tweets related to disasters and topical problems like COVID-19.

I am now IEEE R10 Director-Elect 2023-24, and served as the Chair of IEEE Japan Council (2021-22), BoG of IEEE Computer Society (2021-23), and the Past Chair of IEEE Women in Engineering (2015-16). In 2019, I received the IEEE 2019 MGA Larry K. Wilson Transnational Award and Fellow of the Information Processing Society of Japan.

We are a family of four: my husband, son, and daughter. My husband and I are both engineers and we met at the same company. Our son graduated from Harvard Kennedy School and is an economist. He is married and we welcomed our first grandchild in January this year. Our daughter is a veterinarian. I have almost finished raising our children. As a working mother, it was challenging when they were young, but those are fond memories.

IEEE WIE: What is your specific area of STEM?

Takako: I am a computer scientist, mainly focused on developing data mining and text mining technologies. I am engaged in analyzing large-scale social media data. In recent years, I have analyzed and classified people’s reactions and perspectives, especially collective behavior, in major disasters and during the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluated their impact on society.

IEEE WIE: Please tell us something interesting about your life that may be why you chose the STEM field.

Takako: My high school teacher, a woman, was a fantastic math teacher. She advised me, “If you want to be independent, go into the sciences.” Fortunately, I was good at math, so I decided to go to the Faculty of Science. If it hadn’t been for her advice, I might have chosen a different field.

IEEE WIE: As an empowered woman, please share how you plan to empower other women. How do you encourage them to take leadership positions?

Takako: As the Vice-President of my university, I am able to give people opportunities. I encourage as many women as possible to seize these opportunities. I have been given many opportunities myself. For example, when I was an engineer in a company, my boss allowed me to work as a working mother. Back then, Japan was even less understanding of working mothers than it is now, and I was often told, “It’s a shame for the child to have a working mother.” I often felt discouraged trying to juggle work and family life, but my boss told me, “Keep working. Child-rearing will end someday,” I was provided with a system allowing for parental leave and reduced working hours. Thanks to that, I was able to continue working. In addition, when child-rearing settled down, I was allowed to lead a joint research project with an overseas research institute and was able to globalize my activities. That has led me to my current positions at the university and in IEEE. As women, we sometimes hesitate to seize opportunities, especially when juggling work and child-rearing, and don’t want to inconvenience others because we lack confidence in ourselves. I want to give such women opportunities, encourage them, and push them to seize opportunities.

IEEE WIE: How do you think diversity and inclusion help in boosting creativity and better problem-solving strategies?

Takako: The problems in society today are getting complex, and diverse perspectives are necessary for their resolution. For instance, in technologies like generative AI that are becoming a topic of discussion, ethical issues such as accelerating unconscious bias and privacy violations are also being highlighted. To identify and solve these challenges, diversity, and inclusion are indispensable. Many people tend to only see problems in the way they want to see them. It is very dangerous to decide there are no problems based solely on your thinking. We must promote diversity and inclusion, fostering an open mind and incorporating diverse perspectives.
Moreover, organizations without diversity lack creativity. Our imaginations have limitations. By bringing together diverse people and collaborating beyond the walls of individual imagination, we can identify and find solutions to problems we hadn’t even considered before.

IEEE WIE: In your opinion, how can everyone ensure that technological advancements are used for the betterment of humanity?

Takako: As I mentioned earlier, promoting diversity and inclusion is essential. We need to accept the advancement of technology while monitoring with everyone whether the technology benefits a diverse range of people and is not biased. In this sense, organizations like WIE are critical. As we move forward, there will be an increasing need for forums to discuss and evaluate the merits and demerits of new technologies with people and think about solutions.

IEEE WIE: What is one piece of advice you can give to young professionals who are IEEE WIE members?

Takako: Find your role model; find your mentor. Having someone to consult when you’re in trouble is significant for career development. And don’t be afraid to take on challenges. Taking risks at times is also essential in career development.

IEEE WIE: How do you challenge the status quo or how do you identify problems in your field and propose solutions to bring positive changes?

Takako: In research, I want to work on modeling people’s positive and negative reactions to issues that threaten human survival, such as disasters and infection outbreaks, in today’s society where cyber and physical are fused, and communication is becoming complex. Based on informatics, I aim to establish it as a basic technology by databasing, measuring, and working with researchers in medicine, psychology, law, and other fields to measure people’s sensibilities and happiness in diverse communication situations. Informatics is now a foundation in all academic areas. Let us promote interdisciplinary research from informatics.

IEEE WIE:  An empathetic leader helps promote a better work environment. Would you agree?

Takako: Of course, I agree. Understanding and respecting people is essential to becoming a good leader.