Regional Women in Leadership Event Series Continues with Bridging the Gap: Elevating the Women of Pittsburgh for the U.S.-Japan Relationship

In partnership with the Japan America Society of Pennsylvania, the U.S.-Japan Council hosted its third installment of the Regional Women in Leadership event in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday, February 18, 2022.

This event titled “Regional Women in Leadership – Bridging the Gap: Elevating Women of Pittsburgh for the U.S.-Japan Relationship” engaged women of all ages, from local academic leaders, business representatives and students to discuss topics such as the need for role models in both men and women, and to normalize life commitments outside of work.

To kick off the event, we welcomed a keynote speaker, Deputy Consul General Kenju Murakami from the Consulate of Japan in New York, who provided the statistical analysis and the country’s context to the population and workforce challenges for Japan. He shared that although Japan has lagged behind other countries in the Global Gender Gap Index, Japan is gradually changing and increasing numbers of parental leave for men and women in the private sector, and the number of female workers increased by about 3.3 million in the seven years between 2012-2019.

After the discussion with DCG Murakami, we welcomed local facilitator, Dana Ludgate from The Global Switchboard, who masterfully guided the group discussion by encouraging participants to partner up with someone they had not met and share their experiences in the workforce including what made them feel supported and the current barriers they face. With the Networking Share Out portion of the event, the participants discovered that they had many shared experiences, particularly in regard to the social expectations of being a primary caregiver and the lack of support from their employers. Participants collectively reached the decision that there was a need for role models and mentors, not just of the same sex, but of all genders. Ms. Ludgate carried the discussion further by breaking down the women in leadership theme of the event by asking, “What”, “So What,” “What Else” and “What Now?”

Within small group discussions, participants shared that in both Japan and Pittsburgh there are similar challenges to address. These challenges included the importance of structural support where on-site daycare can be provided and the importance of men’s contribution to family development. They shared the need for more research on attitudes of Japanese women, and the ways to encourage work environments that are conducive to women and parents, thus opening resources to all parents, not just mothers.

Participants agreed that they would like to learn more about how we can empower young women to aspire and encourage young men to break down the gender biases in family responsibilities in future discussions. Everyone agreed that we all need to actively remove the stigma around discussing salaries, benefits, and hours to encourage women and all types of workers to advocate for themselves and know what they deserve. This point led to an affirmation of the importance of mentors of varying experiences, genders, and backgrounds which will enable the mentee to gain perspective and guidance in their career.

The U.S.-Japan Council would like to thank the speakers and organizers of the event, with special recognition to Ms. Amy Boots, Executive Director of the Japan America Society of Pennsylvania, and our Development Manager,  Ms. Miki Sankary (ELP ’15) for their coordination. The Regional Women in Leadership Program is generously sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.