Leaders August 2015


Where are we now?

Last month, I was told, “I know you are into diversity, but there are just not that many women who can (insert verb). This sent me storming back to the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ) office to take stock of our progress on increasing female participation.

Research shows that diverse teams return better results: embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business.

Boosting participation

When we launched our diversity and inclusion (D&I) events programme in 2012, we did so to share learning from firms that had rolled out successful initiatives in Japan and/or globally. We quickly found that our D&I events attracted higher numbers of women—and Japanese—participants than did our other offerings.

In fact, the D&I events tended to be better attended than BCCJ luncheons or breakfast meetings, even though there was a shorter marketing lead time. There is clearly an appetite for information on the topic.

In 2013, we elected the BCCJ’s second female president in the history of the chamber while, in 2014, we reached 40% female participation on the BCCJ Executive Committee (Excom). Sadly, the number of women involved has declined in 2015.

While corporate membership of the chamber is increasing, the number of women members is under 30%. And, although almost 50% of our 2015–16 chamber year’s events to date have featured female speakers, female attendance at events has decreased slightly.

Our work in this area is promising but there is still much to do.

The good and the bad

Last month, I was one of seven female delegates in a room of 300 at a conference in Tokyo run by a global brand. Of some 24 speakers, two were women. As a result, I have been in dialogue with the organisation’s regional and global teams on how best to address the issue of gender equity in Japan.

Meanwhile, I had a very positive experience as a panellist at the 20th International Conference for Women in Business on 26 July. Speakers included Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other politicians, as well as a championship race car driver and an astronaut.

BCCJ actions

On 10 September, our D&I programme will continue with a showcase of UK–Japan perspectives on gender diversity. Our event will feature Mariko Oi of the BBC, Haruno Yoshida of BT Japan and senior representatives from the British Embassy Tokyo.

Meanwhile, congratulations to BCCJ Excom member Philippe Fauchet OBE and his team at GlaxoSmithKline K.K. for electing three female members to a board of six. This is no mean feat—particularly in Japan.

Is your firm implementing concrete actions to support the development of diverse groups in the workplace in Japan and on a global scale? Let us know, so we can learn from, share, and celebrate your achievements.