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ANZCCJ International Women’s Day 8 March 2019: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”

20 Mar 2019 1:07 PM | ANZCCJ (Administrator)


We hosted a breakfast to celebrate International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March at the Roppongi Hills Club. Guests were treated to views across the city and a clear image of Mt Fuji. Vice Chair, Catherine O’Connell, as MC, opened the event. The theme for the panel discussion was aligned with the global International Women’s Day designated theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart, and Innovate for Change”. In order to honour and underpin the activities undertaken by many of our members, we profiled a number of women’s photos and quotes that had been included in the Celebrating Women in Japan Twitter campaign, @womenofjapan, an initiative from ANZCCJ Chair Emeritus, Melanie Brock.

In her opening remarks, ANZCCJ Chair, Sally Townsend, reminded us of the great history of women in leadership our Chamber has enjoyed. Melanie Brock, first female head of the Chamber, who held the position for 6.5 years and now represents ANZCCJ as our Chair Emeritus. And Catherine O’Connell, Co-Vice Chair of the Chamber, who is leading the way for women through becoming the first foreign female law practitioner to open a private firm in Japan. Sally shared her own personal connection to one of the panellist’s corporations: ‘Poppins Edu-care’. As one of Japan’s first education and care providing facilities for both early childhood and elderly support, Sally said they had been making the work-family balance for women returning to work a lot easier.  Their centres are located around large universities and corporations, for example Shiseido and Waseda University. Sally said that her own son has been enrolled at ‘Poppins’ from the age of zero, and she respects and admires the services they offer. 

The day prior to the event Sally, our second ever female to lead our chamber, was herself breaking records. On 7 March, South Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Hon. David Ridgway MLC announced Sally as the new Commissioner for the South Australia, Japan and Korea office based in Tokyo, the same day that the Minister announced the newly established South Australia trade office was opening in Tokyo, Japan.

The Chamber was honoured to host Australian Ambassador to Japan, HE Richard Court AC, and New Zealand Ambassador to Japan, HE Stephen Payton, who jointly proposed a joint toast to “all those women who have nurtured us, inspired us and whose work for and commitment to gender equality has brought us this far along the road, and to those who will share with us the road ahead”. Ambassador Court described his background as being “brought up in a blokey environment, supported by three strong women”, highlighting the role his mother and grandmothers played in shaping his world.  Ambassador Payton remarked that this is a day to celebrate the progress that we are making towards gender equality – “a day for women to celebrate in each other’s company, and for men to remember that when women are not involved on equal terms, it is men too who miss out”.  A copy of both Ambassadors speeches is included below.

After the breakfast, guests heard from a range of panellists including: Chief Country Officer at Deutsche Bank, Tamio Honma; Vice Chairman, Managing Director of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Reiko Hayashi; Deputy COO, Global Development and Diversity at Suntory Holdings, Sue Gannon; and President of Poppins Corporation, Maiko Todoroki. ANZCCJ, Chair Emeritus, Melanie Brock moderated the panel. 

Panellists provided a range of views during the session, all pointing to the morning’s theme of “Think Equal, Build Smart, and Innovate for Change”. Reiko Hayashi started off by highlighting that it is extremely important for women to have friends and a good support network. Melanie asked whether Reiko had sensed any change in the last several years about International Women’s Day or the celebration of women in Japan. Reiko indicated that whilst Japan has been changing, more change is needed as an aging population is now becoming the next issue putting pressure on women and their careers. She said that there is more awareness of opportunities for women to succeed, however, citing the fact that junior high school students now have the chance to attend career days at her firm, as one example. This opportunity was not available when Reiko was young, with the added expectation at that time, that girls needed to grow and learn to become good wives and mothers. However, Reiko observed in recent years that girls were now very ambitious and keen to know what’s going on in the world.

Next, Melanie introduced Maiko Todoroki, who commented on government support for women in Japan. Maiko stated that we cannot rely solely on the government to bring about change for women. She used her company, Poppins, as an example of a change agent. Through providing nursery and care services for both children and the elderly, Poppins hoped to make it easier for women to return to work and maintain their careers. Although the government offers nursery services, it was perceived as being ‘welfare’ within Japan, and Poppins had to change that mindset. For this reason, Poppins branded their services as ‘educare’, being a care service that also offers beneficial educational opportunities. To learn more about Poppins, go online here: https://www.poppins.co.jp/

From another perspective, Melanie asked Sue Gannon on her thoughts surrounding challenges facing women in Japan. Sue said that over her nearly two years in Japan and working for Suntory Holdings, she would agree with Melanie, that as foreigners we can’t come to Japan and preach to Japanese women. She said foreign women were placed in a different category than Japanese women in the workplace (where both were facing different challenges). Over her time working with Suntory University, Sue said she has been focusing on emerging young women. Her aim is to change the existing perspective that women have to choose between a career and family life.

Melanie emphasised that it is important to cater towards Japanese women’s needs in the workplace, but asked panellists, what further could be done. Tamio Honma said that female colleagues in Japan have a somewhat different perspective from females in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Singapore. In these other Asian countries, there is less stigma surrounding women who get help to care for their children. However, there is an expectation for women in Japan to be ‘perfect’ and there is a great deal of guilt if they are to reach out for assistance. Tamio said we need to change this perspective by creating established role models to show female employees that they don’t have to be perfect, or that there is anything wrong with reaching out for help. Deutsche Bank Japan has been very successful in celebrating women and has elected three women into management positions within the last 5 years. Two of the three women have taken maternity leave. This supports the notion that it is ok to balance a family and a career. 

Melanie then opened the floor for questions. Regional Director at Edelman Japan, Deborah Hayden, when raising the issue of unconscious bias, gave the example that a man who could be considered bossy, is instead considered to be assertive and/or showing his leadership skills, however, a bossy woman is just seen as being bossy. She asked how this could change. Sue answered that, in Japan, the choices of adjectives for women are an example, like elsewhere of ‘conscious bias’. However, as she went on to say, most people are completely unaware that they are doing this. She suggested we need to talk about this issue more to help people understand the image it is reinforcing. We need companies to provide support for women so they can feel confident to speak up. 

Another question was raised about elevating men’s position as active fathers at home. The panellists agreed that particularly young men are becoming involved in parenting. Melanie said that she’d often seen dads at the park with their children on Sundays and that young fathers were playing a bigger and more prominent role in parenting but agreed we still have a long way to go.

Melanie finished the session thanking both panellists and the audience, adding that she believes everyone has a role to play in changing attitudes and perceptions about women and this was just the beginning.  In his closing, Matthew Walker, ANZCCJ’s Executive Council member, said that as a father of an eight-year-old daughter, he too understood that there is still a long way to go in terms of unconscious biases and that no man was impervious to under-representation and other issues facing women in the workplace - it would impact the future work environment for our wives and daughters. 

Our IWD2019 event attracted as many as 80 attendees and was one of the Chamber’s most successful events in terms of attendee participation. Guests posed a number of engaging questions from the floor, and as one of the panelists mentioned “as women, we need to build connections and support networks”. As a Chamber we hope to facilitate and encourage discussion that will deepen our understanding and work together to change our work environments toward positive change. The engagement by both female and male attendees and presenters created a diverse and open-minded environment in which we could challenge issues surrounding women in Japan. Attendees were able to take home a positive message and motivation to make a change, but it is now up to the Chamber and our stakeholders to keep the discussion and momentum going.

We are delighted to have had the support of Erika Itaki, Overseas Department Marketing Manager at Lapidem Inc, who attended the event and also provided some small gifts for our attendees. Lapidem is a female founded and run business in Tokyo, based on an ethos that keeping the balance of life will maintain your health. You can learn more about Lapidem online at https://lapidem.co.jp/. We thank Lapidem and Ms Itaki for their support.

This event was a part of ANZCCJ’s Diversity & Inclusion event series. On 26 March, the Rugby Alliance Chambers will host a panel discussion, “Diversity in Rugby” with rugby industry representatives. The focus of the event will be on the growing need and importance of diversity in rugby, both on and off the field.

ANZCCJ International Women’s Day Event: Official Speech from Australian Ambassador to Japan, HE Richard Court AC

I was one of five boys in our family. On one hand, you could say I was raised in a very blokey environment. On the other hand, you could say I was raised by one very strong woman, my mother, supported by my two grandmothers- that was the case. These five boys went on to have many children, predominantly daughters. Those daughters have thrived in Australia where they have had many opportunities and choices to succeed in different walks of life.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to say thank you to those people who are making it possible for woman around the world to have more choices and options.

ANZCCJ International Women’s Day Event: Official Speech from New Zealand Ambassador to Japan, HE Stephen Payton

Kia ora and good morning. Thank you to the Chamber for hosting this event and for inviting Ambassador Court and I to propose this toast. This is a day to celebrate the progress that we are making towards gender equality, with the #MeToo movement and other developments. It is a day for women to celebrate in each other’s company, and for men to remember that when women are not involved on equal terms, it is men too who miss out. We miss out on the company of women, on the insights of women and on the power of women. At an event in the New Zealand Parliament this morning, the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has joined the celebrations, but she has also reminded New Zealanders that in New Zealand too there is still a long way to go.  And she has told her audience that they should not underestimate the impact that each individual can have on the women and men around them, in their households, in their communities and in their workplaces, with what they do and what they say about gender equality.  We all have our part to play.

So let us raise a toast: To all those women who have nurtured us, inspired us and whose work for and commitment to gender equality has brought us this far along the road, and to those who will share with us the road ahead, Happy International Women’s Day.



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