Society diversity

How Japan can embrace gender equality and foster a more inclusive society

The World Economic Forum released the Gender Gap Index on July 13, which quantifies the gaps between men and women in four areas: economy, politics, education and health.

Japan ranks last among advanced economies in the Group of Seven and 116th out of 146 countries in the world. Makiko Eda, Japan’s chief representative at the World Economic Forum in Tokyo, contributed this article to The Japan News about the report.


• Japan ranks lowest among the G7 countries for gender equality, according to the Gender Gap Index.

•Progress is being made in some policy areas and society is starting to shed some of its outdated views on gender roles.

•Public-private initiatives are working to accelerate gender equality, but there is still work to be done.


Diversity is not just about being inclusive in terms of gender equality. But the failure of businesses and organizations to include the largest minority group, women, indicates that they are not inclusive of other minority groups.

The World Economic Forum’s latest Gender Gap Index once again puts Japan at the bottom of the G7 country rankings. This is a clear sign that not only women but other minority groups are being left behind.

Diversity is a source of innovation; an essential element for the growth of a nation, especially for Japan, which has suffered from a lack of economic growth for some time. Recently, I have noticed an awareness and an open discussion in Japan around the issue of gender equality. Public opinion seems to encourage gender equality, as ideas that are not linked by gender are increasingly widespread. There is a movement to revisit actions and behaviors that just a few years ago would have been mocked and ignored. The public is no longer laughing.

Ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the former creative director in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies was forced out of his post for making derogatory remarks in an online chat group about a female celebrity to whom he suggested appearing as an “Olympig”. Today, women are gradually assuming leadership roles in the political and economic spheres. Last spring, the Japan Business Federation (or Keidanren) named Tomoko Namba, founder and president of online service provider DeNA Co., the first female vice president in its 75-year history.

Public policy and promotion of gender equality

In policy areas, there seems to be progress being made, such as encouraging men to take parental leave. In June 2022, under the Kishida administration, the “Basic Policies for Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2022” (Honebuto-no-Hoshin), and “Grand Design for New Capitalism and Plan of Action”, suggest that investing in people is a major issue. to concentrate.

Along with promoting higher wages and developing skills, the “Respect for Diversity and Flexibility of Choice” policy calls for the creation of an environment where people can work regardless of gender and ensure flexibility. Most notable is that disclosing gender pay gaps should be mandatory for companies. The report also mentions that the social security and taxation systems, which further hinder women’s employment, should be reviewed.

If this trend continues, it can be expected that the environment for gender equality in terms of policies and systems, especially from the point of view of promoting women’s employment, will improve. Compared to a short time ago, we can see that some progress has been made in raising awareness of gender equality issues in Japan; clarify where the problems lie and provide allocations and measures in the basic policies.

It is also true that in Japan, while benefits are paid according to the system, men tend to be reluctant to take parental leave due to company culture. Moreover, the distribution of household chores in the home is skewed in favor of women, which ultimately hinders women’s advancement in the labor market.

Whether the movement towards gender equality will gain momentum or whether “gender equality” will become a passing buzzword without much improvement depends not only on how the government leads the way in policy, but also how the private sector will react and how individual attitudes and behavior change.

Around the same time that the “Grand Design for a New Capitalism” was released, the “Women’s Version of the 2022 Framework Policy” was also released, focusing on priority issues from the perspective of advancement. women and gender equality. He points out that “structural issues such as various systems that formed during the Showa period (1926-1989), work practices, including wage disparities between men and women, and stereotypical awareness of gender role.” The report also addresses women’s economic independence and the active role of men in the home and in the community.

Building a more inclusive society

Gender equality is not something that can be solved by one special remedy. It cannot be achieved without unraveling and resolving structural issues one by one, including individual consciousness.

The ability to integrate and foster diversity will further ensure that the elements of diversity (i.e. nationality, age, race) are not limited to gender, and create momentum for society as a whole, will open discussions and change people’s consciousness and behavior.

As governments, private businesses and civil society must work together to achieve gender equality, it is encouraging to see younger generations, in particular, taking an interest in social issues and becoming active social entrepreneurs.

The World Economic Forum has also launched the “Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator” initiative in cooperation with the Japanese government (Gender Equality Bureau, Cabinet Office) and the private sector to accelerate gender equality, especially in the economic field. At a time when the nature of capitalism is being revisited, I hope we can play a part in positive change as an example of how the public and private sectors can work together to solve social problems.

Policy frameworks to advance gender equality are being aligned. Public-private cooperation is key to leveraging these frameworks to bring about change – not only to close the gender gap, but also to build a more inclusive society. These are essential for Japan’s innovation and growth, especially in a high-speed world with many challenges to overcome.

Makiko Eda

Eda served as President of Intel Japan from 2013 to March 2018 and served on the Japanese government’s committee for promoting regulatory reform from 2016 to 2019. Eda took up her position as Japan’s chief representative to the World Economic Forum in Tokyo in April 2018.