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Japanese Prime Minister Expands Efforts to Place Women in Leadership Roles

On Wednesday, September 3rd 2014, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe selected five women for his Cabinet.

As a part of his “Abenomics” growth strategy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to increase his promotion of women to leadership roles and empower women to have careers – a campaign he has called “womenomics.” His plan involves having women in 30% of leadership roles in both the private and public sectors by 2020.

Currently, women make up only 3.9% of board members of listed Japanese companies, this compared to the 12% at U.S. corporations and 18% in France.

The prime minister plans to practice what he preaches as he selected his new eighteen member Cabinet to include five women, which has only been done one other time in Japanese history.

An article by the Associated Press says “Although holding ministerial positions are in some ways ceremonial in Japan — where government affairs are largely run by professional bureaucrats, who stay on regardless of new ministers — expanding the presence of women in a place as high-profile as the Cabinet is a victory for sexual equality in Japan.”

Although Japan has a large number of very talented and well educated women, equality among the sexes in Japan is something that women have been struggling with for much time now. According Yuri Kageyama of the Associated Press, Japanese women have been plagued by the stereotype of the quiet and submissive, “cutesy girl” as the ideal for womanhood, both by traditional beliefs, as well as pop-culture. Escaping this image has been an uphill battle.

“Earlier this year, a Tokyo city assemblyman apologized for heckling a woman assembly member who was making a speech about infertility and marriage. Other assembly members joined in the taunting and laughter, and the apology came only after an outburst of sympathy on social networks and TV news shows.” – Kageyama

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to have 30% of upper-level business and political positions occupied by women by 2020 will help to combat gender discrimination. This move towards gender inclusion in leadership roles not only marks a monumental stepping stone for women in Japan, but women all over the world as women continue to fight stereotypes, prejudices, discrimination and power imbalances.

TRACOM’s Dr. Natalie Wolfson says “Research shows that while there are no gender differences in terms of total EQ scores, men and women tend to be strong in different EQ skills. For example, women typically score higher on emotional awareness and empathy compared to men. As organizations move from structures that are largely rigid and hierarchical to ones that are organized around flexible team-based networks, these people skills are absolutely essential. Women leaders’ ability to be open and consider others’ perspectives can help create participative, relations-oriented environments that are needed for team success. Women bring unique strengths to the table and we need to see more of them in leadership positions.”

 

Photo Credit: “Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan (9092387608)” by Chatham House – Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of JapanUploaded by russavia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shinzo_Abe,_Prime_Minister_of_Japan_(9092387608).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Shinzo_Abe,_Prime_Minister_of_Japan_(9092387608).jpg

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