On August 27, 2015 (Thursday), MetLife Japan held a symposium at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo on the theme of "Challenges on Gender Diversity - Women and Men."
At MetLife, we value diversity and an inclusive work environment. We strive to foster a workplace where the differences and individuality of every employee are respected and they can demonstrate their own strengths.
Discussions at last year's symposium focused on women's career development with the theme of "a society where women shine, and my career." Following on from that, this year the focus of discussion was on concrete actions both women and men can take to promote women's participation in society, which is considered as a major social challenge. The symposium discussed how we can realize a diverse work environment where even more women can shine and gain the support and understanding of men, with the theme of "Challenges on Gender Diversity - Women and Men."
Ms. Kazuko Shiraishi, Ambassador for Women, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and Ambassador in charge of Arctic Affairs
Ms. Kazuko Shiraishi
Video Message by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
After Ms. Shiraishi's opening speech, the video message by Prime Minister Abe, "WAW! for All", was screened.（YouTube）
Ms. Susan Markham, Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment, US Agency for International Development
Ms. Susan Markham
In line with the goal of considering gender diversity from the perspectives of both women and men, the symposium consisted of two parts – a women's and men's session.
Ms. Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa, Ambassador of India to Japan, Embassy of India in Japan
Ms. Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa
Ms. Janelle Sasaki
Panel discussion in progress
The next question posed to the panel was, "What are the factors hindering the promotion of women's participation in society? And what can we do to break through those barriers?" Responding to this was Ms. Morris, who has been working on the frontline as a member of MetLife's executive group and expanding the company's employee benefits business in over 40 countries. She stated that, "clearing away any preconceptions and obtaining a strong commitment from leaders can help employees to promote understanding the participation of women in society."
To close the session, each panellist offered various advices for encouraging men's support for women's success. "Sponsorship is important, and both men and women need to go beyond conventional approaches and ways of thinking, and take risks to bring about changes." (Ms. Morris).
"Diversity is not only a women's issue but a men's issue as well. So, it is very important to create more opportunities for male leaders to feel and experience diversity to ‘get’ this." (Ms. Kaori Sasaki).
Ms. Okina also presented statistics showing that women in Japan do many more hours of unpaid work compared to women in other advanced nations, and proposed that "men should recognize that they need to support women not only in society, but at home as well."
Ms. Kaori Sasaki
Ms. Yuri Okina
Ms. Maria Morris
Mr. Jun Kawakami, President and CEO, GE Healthcare Japan
Mr. Jun Kawakami
The second half panel discussion featured guests who have made their mark in the area of diversity and inclusion, including Mr. Jun Kawakami who delivered the keynote speech, Mr. Masatsugu Shimono (GM, Global Technology Services, IBM Japan, Ltd.) and Mr. Akira Ito (Chief Legal and Compliance Officer, MetLife Japan). The guests discussed the theme of Men's Role in Supporting Women, and addressed men who understand the importance of supporting women to help them be successful, but are concerned about exactly how to do that. Drawing from their extensive experience in this area, the guests shared their own success stories in the hope they could provide some kind of support for the men there.
Following on from the women's panel discussion, Ms. Janelle Sasaki served as moderator for the men's panel discussion and posed the question, "What are some successful cases of making a shift in men's mind set?" Mr. Kawakami shared the case of having assigned new female graduates to the sales field where mostly male employees had belonged. When women did walk-in sales, they were turned down less often compared to their male colleagues; this experience has created a new opportunity of sharing sales know-how within the company. Mr. Shimono, who joined IBM Japan in 1978 and has accumulated extensive experience in a wide range of fields, also commented that "It is important that men encourage women to build up their confidence."
The panelist were then asked, "What are some of the best practices and methods for supporting women that you can share with men who understand the importance of women's participation in society, but don't know exactly how to support that?" They responded by offering advice from their respective positions and perspectives. "It's not a case of because of women or men. The requirements at work should be the same for both women and men. Employees should be given equal opportunities for work and positions, regardless of their gender." (Mr. Ito) "Numerical targets should be set for each position. We use a line personnel system at IBM Japan, and we also have the rule of ensuring at least one female employee candidate be included at promotion meetings." (Mr. Shimono) "There's no reason why men who enjoy taking part in child rearing cannot have successful careers. It's important to not think too hard or be too tense about things you think should happen." (Mr. Kawakami)
Mr. Masatsugu Shimono
Mr. Akira Ito
Panel discussion in progress
Mr. Sachin N. Shah
As a global corporation that employs many women in different countries, and also as a company that provides life insurance, which is an indispensable part of the infrastructure of everyday life, MetLife is committed to realizing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. MetLife Japan considers active participation of women in Japan's society to be extremely important. We believe that by recognizing, respecting and accepting the diverse lifestyles, individuality and strengths of each person, we can create a society and organization that allows an individual to fully capitalize on his/her strengths and capabilities.
2014 MetLife Japan Symposium (Japanese)
*Shine Weeks refers to the period around WAW! 2015 (July 1-October 31), which has been set as a time for promoting the active participation of women in Japan with government ministries, local governments, private companies, citizens'groups, schools and student groups holding various events associated with women, such as symposiums, seminars, movies, performances, Japanese cultural events on sightseeing and food, etc. The Assembly was first held in 2014, and the second symposium WAW! 2015 took place on August 28 and 29. Ms. Maria Morris, Executive Vice President of the MetLife Global Employee Benefits was invited to participate by the Government of Japan.
**Empowerment refers to a woman having the right and the ability to make decisions about her own daily life and life in general, being able to participate in the decision making process at various levels, and possessing the power to bring about social, economic and political changes.