1976. A twenty-two-year-old Japanese American woman enters the management ranks of a major corporation and encounters . . . just what you’d expect. Sexism. Misogyny. Racial bias. And she breaks barriers anyway.
From the moment Elaine Koyama was hired as a management trainee at agri-business giant Cargill, Inc., she found herself entangled in the endless fight to wedge herself through the doors the women’s movement opened. As men and women all over the country began to examine and redefine the boundaries of their roles, Koyama, fresh out of Stanford, navigated farmyard sales calls, meetings at strip clubs, and a new life in the heart of the Midwest. In Let Me In, Koyama shares the true story of how she fought her way through the corporate jungle before the term glass ceiling was even coined.
Elaine Koyama grew up on a sheep, wheat, and sugar beet farm in eastern Montana. She is the youngest in a family of eight sansei (third-generation) Japanese Americans. She spent twenty years at Cargill, twenty years as an entrepreneur, and plans to spend the next twenty writing.
The mother of three adult children, Elaine, with her Yorkipoo, Kiba, now splits her time between Miltona and Minneapolis (though she considers Hardin, Montana, home). Independent and undaunted, her most recent adventure took her on a 10,000-mile, thirteen-state solo road trip where she skied 300,000 vertical feet at twenty western mountain resorts. Visit www.ElaineKoyama.com to follow her blog, Musings of an UnGeisha, and learn more about her writing retreat, Retreat2Write.
“In 1976, as the women’s movement started to gain traction, Elaine Koyama, a recent Stanford graduate from a Montana farm, entered the work world in what we called a “nontraditional” position. She was an ag (feed) sales person on the fast track into management. Let Me In follows Elaine through the funny, absurd, and confusing times for women who were vanguards on this path. With hard work and help from family and friends she succeeded (maybe I should say “endured”) where many men and women failed.
This a must-read for those of us who lived it, as well as for those who want to understand what really happened when you were one of the first women in a Fortune 500 company to blaze a path for those who followed.”—Ruth Bokelman Conn, ag sales 1976-2019 at Chevron Chemical, Cargill Seed, DuPont Crop Protection, and Syngenta Crop Protection
“Engaging and insightful, Let Me In resonates across culture, ethnicity, and gender. An often-humorous look into managing a career.”—Stephanie Keire, retired executive vice president of Wells Fargo Bank
“Elaine Koyama has lived the quintessential American dream: she built upon the opportunities her parents and grandparents created and made and remade herself as further opportunities presented themselves. Elaine pursued a college education, as expectations for women shifted and a new generation’s dreams could be realized. Let Me In details Elaine’s early life—her growing up in Montana, college years in California, and her break into the business of sales when women were just entering the world of work in larger numbers.
Among the first women to blaze trails through America’s boys’ club of business, Elaine’s story is our American story, as well as the modern history of American business.”—Ann Swanson, PhD, International Baccalaureate consultant
“I felt like I was reading my own story. I loved the way Elaine’s attitude and perspective shows readers how to face a challenge and figure out how to conquer it. A positive attitude and good humor solve a lot of problems.”—Ruth Kimmelshue, Cargill corporate senior vice president of business operations and supply chain
“Elaine Koyama is a pioneer who moved to Minneapolis from her childhood home in Montana in order to explore the frontier that women faced breaking into leadership in corporate America. Elaine’s story is one of navigating the unknown, the inner-strength to tackle insurmountable obstacles, and a triumph of the spirit.
Her perseverance, courage, and humanity will be of interest to both men and women with aspirations for corporate leadership.”—Dr. Stefanie Lenway, dean at University of St. Thomas and Opus Distinguished Chair at Opus College of Business
“An interesting read about the first twenty years of a nontraditional woman in a changing business environment.”—Jerry Rohlfsen, retired Cargill vice president
“An artful narrative! A woman born too soon navigating the roadblocks along the path to her goals.” —Anna Rohlfsen, retired Cargill corporate spouse