The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Is An Important Milestone For Gender Equality In Japan-But Long Road Ahead Remains

03-Mar-2021 Intellasia | Forbes | 5:02 AM Print This Post

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have garnered a lot of international news attention given the unfolding Covid-19 situation, and very recently, given the row over sexism. The unforgiving remarks by former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori, that female members of the Japanese Olympic Committee talk too much, have led to international outcry and his resignation. Two weeks since the incident, Bloomberg reports that more than 1,000 volunteers for the Games have withdrawn, and the new Committee President, Seiko Hashimoto, announced a new committee on gender equality.

For a country that ranks 121st out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Reportthe largest gender gap among advanced economies, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has thrust the situation of gender equality in Japan into spotlight. “We as the Organising Committee can do more on gender equality,” said Organising Committee President Seiko Hashimoto, a former Olympic athlete and a woman, as she announced a new team to promote gender equality effective 25 February, led by Kotani Mikakto, two-time Olympic medallist in artistic swimming and also a woman. Hashimoto also added that she intends for at least 40 percent of the Organising Committee to be women.

Could this be a pivotal moment in Japan’s journey towards gender equality? Rena Suzuki Wagner, Cofounder of Lean In Tokyo, believes that this is a small step forward. “I believe the change in the organising committee leadership is a great example of how a public uproar made some positive difference for gender equity in a highly recognised political stage,” says Suzuki Wagner. Female representation in politics in Japan is extremely lowdata from 2018 shows that only 10.2 percent of Japan’s lawmakers were women, the lowest percentage among G20 nations. While there are more pressures to improve female representation, women also do not necessarily hold the decision-making power. A few weeks ago, the ruling party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party, has invited five women to attend their meetings as observers but the women were not allowed to speak.

Yet, what would it take for sustained change towards gender equality to continue? Suzuki Wagner, who started Lean In Tokyo while working at the Investment Banking Division at Merrill Lynch Japan Securities, thinks that sustained change will require the commitment of Japanese government and corporate leaders to challenge systemic sexism, but they are not there yet. The positive change resulting from the Olympics happened largely because of international pressures. “After the Olympics, Japan will go back to a country without enough international exposure and pressure,” says Suzuki Wagner. “If we look at how this event unfolded, I think it was a chain reaction that will be hard to repeat moving forward. The Japanese public opinion towards Yoshiro Mori reaching and negatively impacting the international perception of the Olympics. That did not sit well with the international sponsors of the event and the international Olympics organisation who in turn pressured the Japanese government to change.”


Category: Japan

Print This Post

Comments are closed.