Masahiko Uotani

TOKYO — Masahiko Uotani, representative director, president and chief executive officer of Shiseido, spoke candidly with journalists on Monday on topics related to innovation, the company’s business strategy, the importance of diversity, and more.

The top executive of Japan’s largest cosmetics company discussed the important steps that Shiseido has taken in improving its diversity as it works to become a more globalized enterprise. Shiseido said Monday it had established a venture with leading Japanese child-care company JP Holdings. Called Kodomology, the business will work to establish and operate in-house nursery schools in companies across Japan. Shiseido’s own day-care center in its corporate office was established in 2003 and has since earned much acclaim, including a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013, who has said that making it easier for women to reenter the workforce after having children is key to boosting Japan’s economy.

Still, Uotani recognized that Shiseido has a long way to go before achieving true equality, especially when it comes to upper management positions.

“We are promoting our new, young generation to be in management positions in marketing, like brand managers,” the executive said, noting that particularly in the cosmetics business, it’s important for women to be involved in decision-making as they are the end users of most products. “What is really important is actually really diversity. I can’t really say every decision is going to be made by women only. That’s not probably good either. So [the question is] how shall we have [a balance of] men, who have some experiences, and obviously women, who have different experiences, different views, and a more sort of realistic view toward this business because of their involvement in beauty day-to-day, and younger people, senior people, Japanese, non-Japanese enjoying a real sort of diversity. Then we can create new value. From that viewpoint, I would like to promote more women to the upper positions [and] I would like to promote younger generations.”

Uotani recalled that when he joined Shiseido three years ago, only one woman served on the company’s board.

“The second year [I was president], I increased that to three, so it’s three times bigger than before, but [that’s] out of 18. That’s the reality today. My goal is to have 50-50 opportunities, and then it’s up to those people who can take [advantage of the opportunities] or not. But at least we want to create even opportunities for men and women. And I’m sure Shiseido is going to make it happen,” he said, adding that his timeline for reaching this goal is by the year 2020.

Uotani also touched on the topic of the Trump administration and how business may be affected by some proposed policies.

“Obviously there should be a lot of implications. If the U.S. economy is going to be strengthened because of [Trump’s] tax reform and infrastructure investment, [that would be] very positive for us. [Related to] trade issues, if he’s going to put tariffs on imports, of course that’s not good for us. So I can talk about all the [possible] implications, but I don’t know yet. The good news is we have a plant in the States. Not in Mexico yet,” he said with a laugh.

Earlier this month Shiseido reported that net profit for its most recent fiscal year had grown by 9 percent, while operating income and sales declined, due largely to the effects of a strong yen.

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