She earned a master's degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Japanese Studies. After graduation, Matsui worked for Barclays de Zoete Wedd Securities in Tokyo. Although she was not looking to leave BZW, she joined Goldman Sachs in 1994 as the firm's chief Japan strategist, lured by the firm's global reach. Four years later, she was named a managing director, and in 2000, was invited to join the partnership.
Even before Matsui was ranked No. 1 in Japanese equity strategy by Institutional Investor in 2000 and 2001, she had risen to national prominence with her ground-breaking research piece, "Womenomics." Her thesis was that women, as both highly qualified producers in the work force and as consumers, were the great untapped resource for Japan's struggling economy.
Battle against cancer
Six years ago, after the birth of her daughter and her second top Institutional Investor analyst award, at a point when her personal and professional goals were falling into place, Matsui was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. She had known she was at risk since her mother and both grandmothers had the disease, but she never expected it to strike her at the age of 36.
As she recovered after treatment, Matsui thought long and hard about returning to her fast-paced life. Members of her support group in California told her she was crazy to consider it--one even went as far as to tell her the stress would make her sick again. But Matsui decided that work would be her therapy.
She returned to work. After six months, she knew she had the strength to take up her former responsibilities, and she felt she would get back to her old form. Final confirmation came on the fifth anniversary of a clean bill of health. Once again, in 2006, Institutional Investor named her Japan's top-rated strategist. And as a woman who has battled cancer, and found a way to have a family and a world-class career while devoting herself to philanthropic causes that span the globe, Matsui admits that, on one level, the award is not what matters. Yet, on another level, "It was exciting to know that I could get back on top. For me it was my Tour de France, my Lance Armstrong."