This series explores topics surrounding women who began their careers in Japan following the implementation of equal opportunities employment legislation in the mid-1980s. With many now reaching the age of retirement, it is hoped their stories can provide insight and lessons for women in Japan’s professional world today.

Two seemingly incompatible ingredients are indispensable for successful social entrepreneurship: unwavering moral commitment to the improvement of a social cause; and commercial shrewdness for building a viable, profitable business in service of that cause. The first without the second is philanthropy. The second without the first is soulless.

Wakana Nukui, 57, a Tokyo-born woman of slight build, embodies both elements. Early in her life, she vowed to help women in developing countries achieve their professional, and consequently financial, independence.