The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


May 2014
Speaking Up For What Women Want
WIB Summit aims to support the government in what needs to be done to revive Japan
By Elizabeth Handover and Deborah Hayden

Re-engaging women in the Japanese workforce is a key priority of the Abe government, and is one of the pillars of the prime minister’s Abenomics strategy for revitalizing Japan. And so it should be.

Goldman Sachs’ Kathy Matsui wrote in a report titled “Womenomics 3.0” that equalizing roles in the workforce could increase GDP by as much as 15 percent. And we agree.

The U.S.–Japan Council (USJC) held a summit, “Delivering on the Promise of Womenomics: How Can Americans Contribute?” in Washington, DC on March 25, which brought together a great line-up of American and Japanese speakers focusing on the support that is needed to ensure that Abenomics can deliver on its promises.

I spoke with a group of 30 young Japanese women who attended this summit, and returned to Japan inspired by the exciting possibilities that open up when women unite in their goals to make change. The energy of this group, and the determination that they display, is a demonstration of the future business power of Japan.

The upcoming USJC–ACCJ Women in Business (WIB) Summit which will be held at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo on May 27, will bring together not just 30 women, but more than 700 Japanese and foreign businesswomen and men, including members of women’s groups and corporate organizations. They will collaborate and coordinate and speak up about what is really important.

A key objective of the summit will be to have everyone speak in one voice in support of the Japanese government and corporate Japan to provide practical and realistic policies on how to advance the role of Japanese women in the workforce.

Studies by Manpower Inc. and others show there is a serious shortfall in talent needed to maintain Japan’s current economic standing. Japan is set to lose its position as the world’s third-largest economy unless the business world and the government take urgent action. They must make it possible for women to bring the full weight of their education and talent to revive Japan.

The forthcoming WIB Summit will be a key stepping stone in moving from discussion to taking decisive action. With this in mind, the conference has been carefully managed, set up, and, thanks to our 23 corporate gold sponsors, highly subsidized to enable all the right stakeholders to be there.

Attendees will spend an entire day participating in cutting-edge plenaries, listening to inspirational speakers, as well as attending a cornucopia of breakout sessions, with refreshments, lunch, and evening cocktails.

Speakers include acclaimed Womenomics author Kathy Matsui; ACCJ President Jay Ponazecki; vice chairman of the Keizai Doyukai Sakie Fukushima; U.S.–Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye; Toshiyuki Shiga, vice chairman of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.; Georges Desvaux, CEO of McKinsey; astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, and many more.

The breakout sessions have been designed to raise important conversations in smaller groups through expert panels and facilitators. These include: “Conversations with Fathers,” “Outsourcing as a Success Strategy,” “Building Leadership Confidence through Awareness and Action,” “Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) + Chemistry,” “Entrepreneurial Winning Women,” “Leadership Strategies and Role Models,” and “Fostering an Ikumen Culture: Best Practices from the Ikumen Diet Association and the Swedish Embassy.”

What is expected in return for all this? We hope that each attendee will contribute no less than their full energy, collaboration, and their voice. We aim to finish the day with this message: the Japanese government, corporate Japan, and NGOs all agree that we need policies that encourage women in business; and to provide a potential list of practical and realistic deliverables. These are what Japanese women and Japan’s economy need from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Japanese government is planning another women’s summit for later this year. We hope that the government will listen to our messages, making the USJC–ACCJ WIB Summit part of the wave of voices speaking up clearly and loudly for the future of Japan. We will work toward promoting and encouraging a broad-based mindset change, all underpinned by a seamless support system for women who work.

With thanks to the 23 corporate gold sponsors:

Harmony Residence Inc.
MetLife Alico
EY Japan
Toys “R” Us, Japan
Prudential Financial, Inc.
J.P. Morgan
Dow Chemical Japan Ltd.
Nikkei Inc.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
Baxter Limited
Qualcomm Japan Inc.
Bloomberg L.P.
McDonald’s Company (Japan), Ltd.
K&L Gates LLP
Eli Lilly
Mitsubishi Corporation
Oak Lawn Marketing
Pasona Inc.
Nu Skin


Deborah Hayden is co-chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee and regional director of Edelman Japan.




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