RIWAC Research Institute for Women and Careers JAPAN WOMEN'S UNIVERSITY


【Report】“The Active Promotion of Women: What is needed now?” ―A Symposium hosted by RIWAC in 2013.

On Saturday December 21, RIWAC hosted a symposium on the topic “The Active Promotion of Women: What is needed now?” We invited Professor Kazuo Yamaguchi of Chicago University to make the keynote address, and the panellists were Ms. Riwa Sakamoto, Director of the Economic and Social Policy Office – Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; Professor Emiko Takeishi of Hosei University; and Professor Masako Kurosawa of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

In the first session of the symposium, Professor Yamaguchi spoke on “Diversity and the Active Promotion of Women: What is needed now? Ethics and Institutions in Europe and the United States; and Current Issues in Japan.” Professor Yamaguchi gave a detailed presentation of statistical data that he had analyzed, and pointed out that in-house corporate career paths are strongly correlated to gender, and there are significant differences in the management promotion rates of men and women and, correspondingly wide disparities in income levels. He claimed that companies need to recognize “the economic irrationality of statistically discriminating against women.”  He also further proposed concrete measures to promote women’s activity, including “the  restrictions on maximum working hours, a comprehensive ban on indirect discrimination and realization of proper, equal treatment for regular and non-regular employment.”

Having listened to the keynote address, the second session focused on the topic of “Thoughts on the Economic Cost of Discrimination against Women”, with reports made by the panel’s professors on their various areas of expertise. First, Machiko Osawa, Director of RIWAC, spoke on the current conditions facing women under the title “Findings observed from Research on Women and Careers.” This was followed by a report from Director Riwa Sakamoto of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry entitled “The Promotion of Women’s Activities as a Growth Strategy” in which she explained new initiatives being undertaken by the Ministry and at national level, such as “Nadeshiko Brand” (a joint project by METI and TSE to recognize companies active in the promotion of women). Emiko Takeishi, a professor at Hosei University raised questions on workplace management in a speech on “Challenges in the Workplace that inhibit Women’s Activity”; and Professor Masako Kurosawa of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies presented arguments on the issue of in-house corporate training in a report entitled “Developing Women’s Abilities in order to take advantage of Women’s Potential.” After that the panelists came together and fielded questions from floor that included enthusiastic discussions on topics such as “Why is diversity not being promoted in Japanese companies?” and “What is the thinking on the issue of regular employees who are limited in working places or work contents?”

The symposium was attended by 84 people, with a wide range of participants such as researchers, workers, policy makers and students. The questionnaire given out at the end received some enthusiastic feedback such as “I came away with a good understanding of the basic issues and current conditions in Japan”; “I was impressed by the powerful, compelling revelations”; and “I came away feeling that we need a triangular balance (between individuals, policies and companies) to change the negative spiral.” Subsequent, smaller social gatherings on campus have been well-attended, with thoughtful exchanges of ideas.

A transcript of this symposium is scheduled to appear next year in Issue 6 of RIWAC’s Periodical “Women and Careers.”  nyone interested in obtaining a copy should contact RIWAC.