Perhaps it’s not surprising that as a member of various organisations attached to Abe’s cabinet office, Kaori Sasaki gives Prime Minister Abe 8/10 for his strategies for improving the status of women in the Japanese workplace and society.
As she is a former reporter for Japan’s TV Asahi News Station, it’s also unsurprising that she particularly rates his persistence in communicating the message that Japanese women are needed in the workplace as a vital part of reviving the Japanese economy. It’s well known in Western politics that you have to repeat the same message over and over agin until it finally gets through and I would say it is also true of Japanese society where the political or corporate leader does not have many carrots or sticks to offer to bring about change, and instead has to keep up the moral pressure until the rest of the elite realise the leader is serious, and feel obliged to join forces.
Sasaki, who now runs her own interpreter and media communications company Unicul, and has recently founded a branding consultancy ewoman, does have a couple of recommendations for further promoting the cause of women. One is that Japanese women should be offered the option of retaining their maiden name. As she points out, if you have built your professional reputation with your maiden name, through published research or other professional activities, you suddenly become very difficult to find, and your brand is weakened, if you then have to change your surname – something that I worry about for Western women too.
Her second point, in response to Japanese business leaders who say they cannot find any women with the relevant industry experience to sit on their boards, is that it is precisely the point of having diversity on the board, for effective governance, that people with different experience and outlooks should sit on the board.
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