The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

US Consul General Karen Kelly (third left) and Kansai-WIB D&I Subcommittee Chair Yuka Nakamura (second left) with participants

The Kansai chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) held its 2019 Women in Business (WIB) Summit—the fifth in a successful annual series—on September 24 at the Hilton Osaka. The theme, Driving Business Through Inclusion: It Starts With You, attracted more than 200 participants from diverse industries. During the two plenary and three breakout sessions, an important and enga­ging dialogue took place about the leadership behaviors and individual actions we can take to drive inclusion in our organizations.

The Kansai chapter established the ACCJ’s first WIB committee in 2008. At the time, there were few female leaders in the business community in Japan—especially in Kansai. As a pioneer, the ACCJ-Kansai WIB committee started advocating for women in the workplace through various activities to raise awareness and support the creation of a better working environment.

Since then, gender equality and women’s empowerment have been discussed actively across the country, and progress has been made thanks to the efforts of many people and organizations, including the Government of Japan. Eleven years after its start, the Kansai WIB Committee has moved to the next phase, going beyond gender equality with the newly established Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Subcommittee.

Kansai WIB Committee Chair MaryAnne Jorgensen (left) with Royanne Doi, global legal, ethics & compliance adviser at Yamaha Corporation

There are some common myths surrounding D&I. Some think it just means to be kind to other people. Others think it is something nice for business, but not a must-have. And there are others who see it as something led by human resources or senior management that is for big global companies with employees of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, not for small, local companies.

Are these things really true? The 2019 summit aimed to debunk these myths by:

Providing clarity on why and how inclusion empowers individuals to maximize their contributions, which is critical to driving sustainable business

Increasing the understanding of specific behaviors that contribute to—and detract from—an inclusive work envi­ronment at both the individual and organizational levels

Offering actionable examples to participants at all levels that they can apply to take initiative and drive inclusion in the workplace, no matter the size and type of organization

Two plenary sessions built the foundation for the discussion about what inclusion looks like and how it contributes to driving business.

The first, Enhancing Performance: Communication and Understanding across Generations, explored differences and challenges in the workplace brought about by age, and provided insights from Generation X and Millennial panelists.

The second, Power of Inclusion: Reflecting on My Career, invited three experienced panelists to share their personal journeys. This provided an opportunity to reflect on how inclusion can have a positive effect on the workplace and answered key questions about how our actions—conscious and unconscious—impact the inclusion of others and ultimately influence the extent to which individuals are able to contribute their best work.

Building on the foundation established in the plenary sessions, the breakout sessions took a deep dive into three angles of inclusion:

  • Psychological safety
  • Conversations
  • Dialogue that gets action

These sessions enabled participants to transform theory into practical actions they could take right away. All three rooms were filled with positive energy and constructive discussions, and it is our hope that these conversations continue to evolve as participants return to their organizations with a greater understanding of the issues and a renewed vigor to drive inclusion in business across the Kansai region.

Yuka Nakamura is chair of the ACCJ-Kansai D&I Subcommittee
An important and engaging dialogue took place about the leadership behaviors and individual actions we can take to drive inclusion in our organizations.