With an aging population and shrinking talent pool, developing a diverse and inclusive workforce is imperative for Japan’s economic growth. By encouraging greater participation from women, the LGBT individuals, younger generations, and talent from abroad, Japan can remedy its labor shortage and strengthen its global competitiveness.
The first American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Women in Business (WIB) Summit was held in 2013, and since then the annual event has become an invaluable part of the national dialogue on workplace equality and diversity.
Each year, the ACCJ hosts summits in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, attracting some of the most influential leaders in both business and government. And while there has been noticeable progress made over the past six years, there is still much to be done. Through these summits, the ACCJ is working hard to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce by fostering open and honest conversation and the sharing of corporate best practices.
The 2019 Tokyo WIB Summit was held at the ANA InterContinental Tokyo. Opening the event was Royanne Doi, chief compliance officer for international insurance at Prudential Financial, Inc. Doi, who was a founding member and the first chair of the ACCJ Women in Business Committee, explained the overarching theme of this year’s event and panels, which connected with the ACCJ’s Workforce Productivity
“We are now talking about inclusion, not just diversity. We are expanding the conversation to include the LGBTQ community and Millennials in the 21st-century workforce. Diversity means diversity of thought, perspective, and experience. We are very pleased that the ACCJ has been at the forefront of the discussion, providing this summit as a place to ensure that the safe, respectful, and practical conversation continues to move forward.”
In the first breakout session of the Tokyo summit, entitled “Women in the Workplace: Good Judgement for Better Decision-making,” the panel examined company culture and improvements that can be made to benefit women and younger staff.
The importance of budding talent was pointed out by Kathy Matsui, vice-chair of Goldman Sachs Japan, co-head of Macro Research in Asia, and chief Japan equity strategist. Discussing the emerging workforce, Matsui, who is credited with coining the term “Womenomics” in 1999, said: “Supply and demand in the workplace is already resulting in widespread and acute labor shortages left and right in this country. I think the advent of technology and the advent of a lot of disruptive technologies means that we can actually think out of the box.”
Understanding that the younger generations have different priorities and expectations for their work is key, she said. “I have undergone Millennial manager training at Goldman Sachs. We have formal training modules on how we old folks can better manage this younger generation. They will account for one-third of adults by next year. They will also account for about 70 percent of the workforce in the United States by 2025.”
The difference between what motivates young professionals and Generation X was also discussed. Paddy Hogan, managing director, head of equity, and head of Asia–Pacific equity sales at Deutsche Securities Inc., explained: “I think younger employees want an advocate, a sponsor, and a mentor. A lot of people talk about company culture—and it is really difficult to define—but work needs to be fun. A lot of younger people don’t aspire for the corner office because they work as an extension of life. It may need to serve a purpose [and] they may need to see their contribution to something, but it needs to be fun.”
Proposing ways that companies can include and encourage women and Millennials in their workplaces, Anne McEntee, chief executive officer of Renewable Energy Digital Services at General Electric Company (GE), shared what GE is doing to ensure inclusion. “As we think about talent development at GE, we are really proud to have what we call affinity forums—like our GE women’s network—to drive retention and connection with employees, as well as educating so that women can be smarter and engage and compete for the jobs that matter.”
Matsui also encouraged managers to make themselves sensitive to unconscious bias in the workplace, and for women to have more self-belief when it comes to seeking promotions.
In September 2018, the ACCJ, in collaboration with the Lawyers for LGBT & Allies Network (LLAN), released a viewpoint entitled Support the Recruitment and Retention of Talent by Instituting Marriage Equality in Japan. Since then, the viewpoint has been endorsed by six other foreign chambers of commerce in Japan and has received coverage in local media, including the Mainichi Shimbun and the Nikkei Shimbun.
As a reflection of the growing importance of this topic, the Tokyo WIB Summit featured for the first time a panel focused on the legal rights and inclusion of LGBT people in the workforce. Entitled “Marriage Equality: The Business Imperative for LGBT Marriage Equality,” the panel saw LLAN Co-Chair and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Senior Associate Alexander Dmitrenko explain how the viewpoint came about. “We worked with the ACCJ to put together this [viewpoint], which basically recommends Japan to adopt marriage equality, which is good for business. It is a business case for marriage.”
Panel discussion focused on how companies can empower and support their LGBT workers to ensure they have happy, satisfied team members. Such feelings of acceptance and contentment are critical to job performance, and companies that adopt LGBT-inclusive policies and culture help their employees focus on their jobs instead of feeling false, unhappy, or distracted.
According to Dmitrenko, a recent survey found that 80 percent of LGBT people said that their sexual orientation was not shared openly at the office. He described the struggle of concealing a part of yourself that is imperative to your identity, and how that can impact your work. “All of those things that you struggle with internally, and externally as well, create quite a bit of distance between you and your team. It wastes energy.”
He outlined ways in which he believes companies can implement a more inclusive environment for LGBT workers. It starts with offering them the same benefits as non-LGBT staff. “You need to promote equality internally through regulations. Make company benefits equally available to LGBT couples, the same as you give to married heterosexual couples.”
Learn to Accept
Mai Madigan, manager of the bilingual communications strategic planning unit, office business department at Mori Building Co., Ltd., is a trans woman. She spoke about her experience coming out at work and how her company supported her throughout her transition.
Mori, she said, made an effort to understand her personal journey, as well as the effects it would have on her work life. “They went through a long period of time where they wanted to figure out what it meant to be trans, what exactly it meant to change your gender on various forms of ID, and what that would possibly mean to other members of staff at the company. I think that, in doing research, much like any other informed person in any other field, they became better at having a trans person in their company.”
Having an open mind and a willingness to understand and accept is imperative for managers and HR departments to help LGBT workers feel comfortable and trust their teams.
Talk for talent
The 2019 Tokyo WIB Summit explored many topics and discussed a variety of ways in which Japan can open up their job market and workforces to include a wider variety of people. Inclusion and diversity contribute to the development of economies, and pushing conversation and change will only continue to improve Japan’s talent pool and remedy the growing labor shortage.
Plus, the benefit these types of conversations can have on society as a whole are of extreme importance. Encouraging diversity and open-mindedness will bring advantages to all areas of business.
Custom Media publishes The ACCJ Journal for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
- External Link