Powerful Voices Join USJC-ACCJ Women in Business Summit to Advocate Growing Role of Women in Japan

 May 27, 2014

TOKYO – “When we create a society where women can shine, Japan will become truly vibrant,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the Womenomics: Engine for Economic Growth Summit, a collaboration of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) and the U.S.-Japan Council (USJC), held on May 27. “Our 2020 goal is to ensure 30 percent of leadership roles are filled by women. Measures must be taken to empower women at all levels… Some women shining is not enough”. 

The second Women in Business Summit brought together leaders and innovators from across Japan to share ideas for the broad mindset change needed to further close the employment gap between men and women. A full day of discussions, workshops and networking, the event applauded the women and men invested in empowering Japan’s female workforce, and provided new solutions for the shifting environment and for establishing a seamless support system for Japanese working women and men. 

Prime Minister Abe, who made a surprise visit to the USJC-ACCJ event, joined keynote speakers U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy and renowned economist and pioneer of Womenomics Kathy Matsui to kick off the Summit. ACCJ President Jay Ponazecki and USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye also welcomed attendees. The speakers shared Japan’s progress in the goals of the Womenomics initiative, and discussed this critical element of the country’s future economic success. 

Addressing the crowd of more than 700 women and men, Ambassador Kennedy said, “You are the generation that can change history.”

ACCJ President Ponazecki said, “…[W]omen [have been] Japan’s most underutilized asset… We hope this Summit will be a key stepping stone in moving from an aspirational discussion of the need for change to taking decisive action.”

The Catalyst group, a leading international research organization working to advance women in the workplace, presented Prime Minister Abe with the Catalyst Commendation, the first time this prestigious award has been presented to a head of state. The
recognition lauds the Prime Minister’s continued commitment to increasing female participation in the workforce, an effort that will directly contribute to further fostering sustainable economic growth in Japan.

The Summit, held at the ANA InterContinental Hotel in central Tokyo, furthered the ACCJ Women in Business Committee’s three-pronged strategy for empowering more women in the workforce, calling for:

• Creating a seamless support system for women who work, including expanding before and after school child care, developing flexible working hours and work from home policies, and fostering creative solutions such as utilizing
seniors in daycare, allowing foreign domestic workers for child and elder care, and supporting the government’s “ikumen” program to provide more involvement by husbands in child care.

• Allowing for increased labor mobility so that a woman who leaves her job can reenter the workforce as a regular employee and not be left behind in terms of pay and promotion opportunities.

• Fostering broad-based mindset change through supporting initiatives such as promoting disclosure of the number of female managers (%) by companies (i.e., the Nadeshiko index used by Tokyo Stock Exchange and METI), creating support for and awareness among male managers of the importance of increasing the representation of women in managerial and executive roles in the workplace, and creating mentoring initiatives for young Japanese women in the workplace.

The all-day Summit featured renowned panelists with innovative ideas for increasing the role of women in Japan’s workforce. During the 12 wide-ranging break-out sessions, panelists discussed increasing diversity and building female leadership, removing
impediments to reentering the workforce, entrepreneurialism, women in science, technology, engineering and math and the role for men – both at home and in the workplace – in empowering women in the workplace.

The Summit was sponsored by Harmony Residence, Aflac, MetLife Alico, EY Japan, Toys”R”Us, Japan, Prudential Financial, Inc., J.P. Morgan, Dow Chemical Japan, RE/MAX Japan, Nikkei Inc., Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Baxter Limited, Qualcomm Japan Inc., Bloomberg, Coca Cola (Japan) Co., AIG, McDonald’s Japan, K&L Gates, Eli Lilly Japan, Mitsubishi Corporation, Oak Lawn Marketing, Shop Japan, Pasona Group and NuSkin Japan.

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