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W20 co-chair addresses BCCJ members
Digital advances provide new era for women
The co-chair of the W20 engagement group, which proposes women-related policy recommendations to the G20, has called on BCCJ members to be pioneers for female empowerment through individual actions.
Speaking at a BCCJ workshop about the W20 summit held in Tokyo on March 23–24, Haruno Yoshida presented digitalisation as a “gamechanger” for advancing gender equality globally.
As the summit brought together 1,000 female leaders from across the globe, she said it builds momentum on female labour participation among the 2.3 billion women living in the G20 group of nations.
Shaping the market
Having women in the workforce, she explained, is important not only for social and moral reasons, but for economic ones, too.
“The consumer market around the world is huge: US$18 trillion. US$12 trillion of that is decided by females. In Japan, the consumer market is 70–80% of GDP,” she said of women’s spending power.
Women marketing to women, in roles that create new services and products, can therefore result in innovation and, ultimately, economic growth, she said.
Yoshida reflected on her 30-year career as an executive in male-dominated workplaces. Before taking up her current role as a PhD student of Womenomics at the University of Oxford, she led five technology giants in four countries, smashing glass ceilings along the way.
In 2012, she became the first female head of BT’s Japan office and, in 2015, she became the first female executive of Japanese Business Federation, Keidanren.
“Most supporters of me were men,” she said, noting that “there weren’t really any females there.”
Power of digital
Now, Yoshida believes that women no longer need to wait for men’s support to succeed in their career. Through the digital age, they can support each other, even from the other side of the world.
Japan may have been relatively slow to adopt diverse work styles, such as flexitime, job-sharing and working from home, but Yoshida said its ageing society and tightening labour force is driving new practices and behaviours that are enabling more women to stay in or return to work after starting a family.
“The big gamechanger [for gender equality] is digital,” she said. “Once digitally connected, we can gather together, we can do something, even by starting small.”
Explaining that the theme of this year’s W20 was “let’s step forward and take action,” Yoshida said women should “see what can be done today, not tomorrow” because momentum for women’s issues is growing around the world.
Feeding into the G20
Yoshida’s messages to BCCJ members form part of the W20 communiqué that was presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the end of March, ahead of the G20 in Osaka, in June.
Fundamental to that paper are plans to deliver the G20’s pledge “to decrease the labour force participation gap between men and women to 25% by 2025,” which was made at the 2014 Summit, in Australia.
The communiqué is comprised of policy recommendations around four pillars: labour equity, financial equity, digital equity and governance. It states: “Gender equality is crucial for economic growth and fair and sustainable development. We reiterate the need for women and men to work in partnership to close the gender gap in order to achieve the [United Nations’] Sustainable Development Goals.”
Following submission of the communiqué, Yoshida reported that members of the W20 are focusing on lobbying for gender equality.