The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


June 2014
Data: Driving a Better Gender-balanced Workforce
By Elizabeth Handover

Data drives decisions!” This was the first comment Janelle Sasaki heard from her mentor on announcing she was moving to Japan to take up the position as head of diversity and inclusion (D&I) at a multi-national IT company.

Sasaki was advised to find out the status of the Japan business and look at the company performance to build an effective D&I strategy.

Sasaki immediately set out to analyze the company workforce and found a ratio of 80 percent men to 20 percent women, with only 10 percent female managers. She ran a large survey across IT companies in Japan to gather external data and found the same ratio across the industry, indicating that her company was at benchmark.

Next, she drilled deeper into the analysis to look at male/female trends for promotions, hires, and terminations over multiple years.

Another critical data point was the engagement scores, which usually also include an inclusion index. Engaged employees mean more productive ones and that, in turn, drives innovation and business results. Sasaki was happy to see the inclusion index go up after one year under her stewardship.

Accumulating accurate data indicates that developing women’s talent is a big area of business opportunity and paves the way for formulating a D&I learning and development policy. Once again, the data is crucial, and measuring how many employees are subsequently promoted after completing leadership programs demonstrates the return on investment in the training.

Data alone is not enough. It is critical to build the business case into a story. Leaders are comfortable setting financial targets, but when it comes to people targets, it’s tougher. They must be helped to understand that setting workforce targets is critical to drive change and business success.

Qualitative feedback is also important, and Sasaki ran focus groups across the company to talk with male employees at all levels, rather than just talking to the target female group. She communicated with senior leaders and middle managers to get a broad base of feedback on the inclusiveness of the company environment.

The data created the base on which to seek the root cause of the problem, empower mindset changes, and activate D&I initiatives. She had previously struggled to manually produce the data to support her D&I work. In reality, many company leaders are not sure of their workforce data and don’t know the breakdown of male and female employees.

Sasaki recently became the Japan Director for Gender Gap. She now has at her fingertips a cutting edge IT platform that can sit on an HR system, pull a vast range of workforce data and correlate it in multiple ways. The data is quickly and accurately turned into visual formats that easily show the problem, the area of opportunity, and provide evidence to answer difficult boardroom questions.

Having easily mined data at the ready will increasingly bring faster approval for D&I programs that will, in turn, drive a better gender-balanced workforce.



Elizabeth Handover is co-chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee and president of Intrapersona K.K., Lumina Learning Asia Partner.