The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


March 2014

Difference Matters

Event highlights lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender culture in Japan

By Megan Waters

As Japan’s first and only lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) awards ceremony, the 2013 Tokyo SuperStar Awards shine the spotlight on LGBT culture. The event also honors those who act as bridges between LGBT individuals and society at large, while embracing their differences.

Award candidates comprise individuals or groups—regardless of age, occupation, and nationality—who have been recognized by the LGBT community over the past year for embracing their differences and building bridges between the LGBT community and society at large.

It is hoped that the event will increase the number of opportunities to learn about LGBT people in Japan, as well as individuals or groups who are contributing to advancing the equality and social acceptance of the community’s members.

In addition, companies that lend their support are introduced at the event, with a view to building an evolving relationship with the local community.

Held on December 7 at Billboard Live Tokyo, the fourth annual event was sponsored by ACCJ member companies EY Japan, Google Inc., Bloomberg L.P., the Deutsche Bank Group, IBM Japan, Ltd., Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and The Ritz-Carlton.

Through her keynote speech, Beth A. Brooke, the global vice chair for regulatory and public policy at EY, sought both to encourage the LGBT community here, and to raise awareness of related issues.

A prominent advocate for the benefits of inclusive leadership and growth, Brooke has been named six times by Forbes as one of the world’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

According to Brooke, she wasn’t openly gay for 52 years of her life. However, the higher she rose in her career, the harder it became to hide who she really was and, thus, she felt increasingly excluded.

“I was deeply closeted; fearful of being defined by anything other than being a great professional and a great leader,” said Brooke.

However, this all changed when she came out in her company’s video for the Trevor Project’s “It Gets Better” campaign, which focused on the issue of suicide among gay teens. In the hope of inspiring gay teens to endure the difficult times they may experience, Brooke and other LGBT professionals at EY described in this video how their lives had improved in the working environment.

She received overwhelming support and, most importantly, learned that differences matter to everyone.

“I had somehow given [the viewers] permission to feel good about their difference and valued for it. Because I said it mattered to me and it mattered to EY,” she explained.

“Everyone wants their perspectives valued and heard. And everyone wants to succeed by being who they are—not by having to conform to be like something they are not.”

Brooke made many discoveries through this experience, including that everyone is special and is made so by their differences. Below are the key lessons she learned from her journey.

Role models
According to Brooke, leadership is about being who you are so others can be who they are, know that they will be valued and, thus, make a difference.

Further, Brooke believes the more senior you are, the more important this is. People cannot be what they cannot see, and need to see themselves in senior leaders.

“At EY, we truly believe in diversity and inclusive leadership. Our competitive strategy around diversity focuses on developing inclusive leaders. The full business case for diversity is not only about difference, but how to lead in a world of difference.

“Our D&I [diversity and inclusion] efforts are as strategically important to us as our revenue growth and geographic expansion. Why? Because they are all inextricably linked,” she said.

“Inclusive leaders with diverse teams ignite creative fires,” she said.

Further, Brooke pointed out that today’s customers won’t look the same as those five years from now.

“They will come increasingly from different geographies and markets and will be led by the underrepresented populations of today. So we have to transform our workforces to have the right relationships with the right people at the right time,” she said.

“People cannot truly ‘see’ you if you aren’t authentic. If leaders are authentic, they open themselves up in a way that makes them vulnerable and more trustworthy.

“This is where the power comes,” she emphasized.

Thus, Brooke believes senior leaders have a responsibility and an opportunity to be more authentic and more vulnerable.

To be a great inclusive leader, Brooke suggests asking yourself the following questions every day.

  • Do you value difference or does it frighten you?
  • Are you comfortable in the chaos of viewpoints that differ from your own?
  • Do you try to meet people where they are in their cultural underpinnings and their human experiences, or do you operate through the lens of your own experiences?
  • Do you make difference safe or do you dismiss ideas not aligned with your own?
  • Do you listen before you talk?
  • Do you validate through a diverse group any decision made by people who look, think, and act like you?

“Let’s all strive to find our voice; to use our platforms and make a difference on these very important issues. Difference matters and everyone is different,” she concluded.


Cultural Award

MAX “Tacata” (for support of LGBT groups in their music by including phrases that evoke inclusion and encourage LGBT individuals)

Community Award
Yodogawa-ku, Osaka City (first government body in Japan to declare support for the LGBT community by vowing to understand and help regarding issues faced by community members, and to train its staff to accommodate needs specific to LGBT individuals)

Overseas Award
Wentworth Miller (for vocal/open support in speaking out against discrimination resulting from recent anti-LGBT legislation in Russia)

Corporate Award
LUSH Retail Ltd (for global D&I policies, including a global campaign featuring pink triangles—displayed at stores and drawn by staff on their bodies—to protest the discrimination LGBT individuals face in Russia)

Media Award
The show Tanken Bakumon: Deep Inside, by NHK (the national public broadcaster used the show to promote understanding of LGBT-related issues in the media; it also organized a tour of Tokyo’s gay area)

Special Award
Kayo Sato (for her coming out and struggles as a transgender model)