Women Empowerment: Lessons from Cartier

How can women overcome gender inequality and reach their leadership goals? Cartier Japan CEO June Miyachi shares her secret in this special course from GLOBIS Unlimited.

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Finding your kokorozashi will unify your passions and skills to create positive change in society. This GLOBIS Unlimited course will help you develop the values and lifelong goals you need to become a strong, passion-driven leader.

One hundred years ago, the West was enjoying the Roaring Twenties. Flappers, a hallmark of the era, represented a burgeoning sense of freedom and equality for women among changing societal norms.

While progress has been made since, today women face many forms of gender inequality in the workplace that go back to the flapper era. Women who work make less than their male counterparts, struggle to achieve leadership positions, and are frequent victims of sexual harassment.

What are the solutions? How do we reach gender equality once and for all?

At the 2022 G1 Global Conference, Abigail Friedman, senior advisor at the Asia Foundation, joined panelists Mitsuru Claire Chino, Satoshi Hirose, Kathy Matsui, and Maiko Todoroki to discuss these questions and share expertise.

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How has the employee experience for women in the workplace changed over the last hundred years?

Mitsuru Claire Chino: Looking back one hundred years, we’ve come a long way. I don’t want to sound like a tobacco commercial, but we have come a long way in the last one hundred years.

Women Empowerment: Lessons from Cartier

How can women overcome gender inequality and reach their leadership goals? Cartier Japan CEO June Miyachi shares her secret in this special course from GLOBIS Unlimited.

The company’s role in society was very different from today. Of course, companies play a huge role in the world in Japan today. In Japan, equal employment opportunity rules were passed thirty-six years ago. So we have equal employment opportunities here in Japan.

And I think what is quite exciting for me is that there is this convergence of the “hard law” to the “soft law” so that it’s not just a requirement that we need to have equal employment opportunities.

But on the stock exchange front, there’s this movement that we want to really give more opportunity to women. That is the right thing to do. That is the best practice, and that is really the way forward for companies to stay competitive and for Japan to stay competitive.

So, yes, we have come a long way in the last one hundred years, certainly in the last forty years, and moreso going forward.

I’m quite optimistic.

How has the gap between men and women changed in Japan over the last hundred years?

Kathy Matsui: I think it is very heartening to me to finally notice that [gender equality] is no longer considered a nice-to-have, but a must have.

It’s now in the context of diversity. And not just gender, but especially cognitive or neurodiversity are imperative for growth—for companies and the economy. I think that’s a huge shift.

“Nothing has changed in Japan.” That’s the mainstream commentary, right?

It’s very negative. But three things:

Number one, until COVID, Japan’s female labor participation rate was one of the lowest in the developed world, rising to 71%, which is higher than both the US, where I come from, and Europe.

Number two is transparency. In 2015, the Japanese government passed legislation—the [Act on Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workplace]—which required the disclosure of gender statistics for public and private organizations. (America does not have this law, by the way.)

And third is parental leave benefits. Again, compared to my home country, the United States of America to this day does not provide national parental leave benefits.

Japan not only provides these benefits, but they are also amongst the most generous in the developed world. For both the mother and the father. Now, never mind the fathers don’t take enough of this leave, but the provision of the benefits is very generous. So I’m also in the optimistic camp.

We still have a long way to go with women in leadership. It’s still not enough, but I think we’re moving the ship in the right direction.

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The key ingredient to success? Passion.

Finding your kokorozashi will unify your passions and skills to create positive change in society. This GLOBIS Unlimited course will help you develop the values and lifelong goals you need to become a strong, passion-driven leader.

What are your proposed solutions to gender inequality in the workplace?

Maiko Todoroki: So I think there are two things I would do.

One is to keep promoting, to encourage the mindset change in women themselves so that they can keep their hands up. They can go for their challenges and let go of some of the burdens.

That’s almost like a curse, in my view, that has been placed upon us as a role in society. There’s a long way to go because you’ve been brought up in that mindset.

The second one is making sure that we have quality supporting services to make sure that they can succeed in life.

And that’s not just in childcare, but senior care or anything that you need to balance in life. As long as there are quality choices there, then you may actually have a choice in the matter of balancing your career and work.

Matsui: So I already mentioned I’m an advocate of [gender diversity] quotas in the public sphere.

The other thing we did not talk about on this panel is another angle of diversity, which is non-Japanese people. And I think it’s painfully obvious to everybody in this room and on the screen that the country needs labor. It is running out of labor rapidly.

In most countries—in Europe or elsewhere—the way they supplement that gap is through immigration. And of course, Japan is trying in a very pragmatic way, but I think it is way too slow.

I worry particularly about lower-skilled talent, but also higher-skilled talent like engineers or talent that’s going to take Japan into the next century. So that’s where I would focus.

Satoshi Hirose: Two things. Number one is to reach a consensus that diversity is the key to success in business. Number two is to take on new challenges [without fear of failure,] make adjustments and continuously change.

I think these two are very important from a management perspective.

Chino: We really need an all-hands-on-deck approach. And I did talk about private companies, but I really do believe that needs to start much, much earlier in education.

UNESCO, for example, has this textbook project identifying gender bias in textbooks or having textbooks that are very gender-neutral. And I think Japan really needs to have something like that so that we educate our next generation very early on to be more gender-neutral and hopefully bias-free.

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