TOKYO — The Global Summit of Women began here on Thursday with speeches and commentary by world dignitaries, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The event, sometimes referred to as the “Davos for Women,” this year places an emphasis on women-onics — a key epitaph in Abe’s namesake economic policy, Abenomics.
On Thursday, Abe was awarded for his work toward gender equality at GSW’s opening ceremony, held at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa hotel in Tokyo’s Shinagawa district. Abe addressed the crowd on the status of his women-omics mission. “As I speak, corporations are declining in Japan and we need the power of women. Women have to participate in society — it creates diversity and a stronger society. I often say — if Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters, they would not have gone bankrupt,” Abe said to the crowd.
The prime minister — who will conclude his current, third term in 2018 — has set many goals to buoy Japan’s economy by way of female mobilization and empowerment. He has set a national goal that by 2020, 30 percent of executive leadership roles in listed companies will be filled by women. He asks that each listed company include at least one woman on its board.
“In the four years under the Abe administration, the percentage of women who continue to work after the birth of their first child exceeded 50 percent for the first time. Female board members have doubled,” he said of his seeds of progress.
Abe noted that, now with more women remaining at work after childbirth, the country’s next issue is to tackle the matter of child care — ensuring that facilities are available to newborns and children, nationwide. Parental leave and shifts in work-life-balance culture are also initiatives his administration looks to tackle.
The prime minister left his skittish relationship with American President Trump off the agenda for the evening, but did hint at the growing worldwide populist phenomenon.
“Women-omics has only just begun. I am confident it will advance with tremendous speed. People call me a conservative leader even within my own conservative political party. I have put a lot of effort into the engagement of women. You can rest assured that more active participation of women in Japan will not turn backwards. Maybe I am receiving this award today as a sign that a conservative politician has won on this issue,” said Abe.
Haruka Mera, chief executive officer of Japanese crowdfunding web site Ready For?, feels that Abe’s plan is working. “The number of crowdfunding projects by women on our web site is rising year-by-year,” she said of metrics supporting female mobilization in Japan.
“I think the women entrepreneurs are a very small population in Japan. It’s very difficult for women to receive investments from banks, so crowdfunding has become a very useful way to start a small start-up,” Mera added of the culture surrounding female entrepreneurship.
Under Abe’s policies, though, she feels that attitudes are beginning to change. “The Abe government supports women, so many banks have some kind of loans just for women to start companies. It was not this easy to get the money from a bank before Abe — the loans are given to us with interest a lot higher.”