How best to support “womenomics,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much-touted push for greater female participation in the national workforce?
In Kanagawa, the prefecture of 9 million people just south of Tokyo, the local government has decided to enlist the help of a forward-looking group of 10 entrepreneurs, chosen from the region’s most prominent businesses.
They include the likes of Uotani Masahiko, CEO of Shiseido, Tatsumaru Terazawa, the head of the Bank of Yokohama, and the President of Fujitsu, Tanaka Tatsuya, together with the Kanagawa prefectural governor, Kuroiwa Yuji—but not a single woman.
This all-male panel graces the Prefectural government official webpage announcing the WOMAN ACT initiative, which recently launched. The men in the picture are described as the “cheering team” for “women’s success,” and the slogan in deep-pink letters above them reads: “Women will gradually take on leading roles.”
It may look like a uniform all-suits squad, but the presence of Carlos Ghosn, the French-Lebanese-Brazilian CEO of Nissan, supplies some diversity, at least judging by nationality. Abe’s much touted National Act Plan to “get women to shine” and make up 30% of all management positions by 2020 in order to give a much-needed push to the national economy has already being downgraded to 7% by 2021.
Judging by what the Kanagawa government is offering up, even that may be too ambitious.
It isn’t as if it is difficult to find women in the prefecture who qualify. The initiative could have chosen to add Kimie Iwata, adviser to the organization, who is only visible if you scroll down to the fourth section of the web page. Or maybe Saotome Tomoko, the founder of the All Japan Obachan Party, a humorous political organization founded in Kanagawa to protest the prevalence of men in politics (“obachan”, meaning “granny”, is also a colloquial term for “pushy older woman”).
Back on the Kanagawa webpage, the fifth and last section defines what the “ACT.” in “WOMAN ACT.” stands for: Action; Activate; Active; Actual; Actuate. Catchy.