On September 12-14, 2014, the World Assembly for Women was held in Tokyo to discuss women’s empowerment in Japan. The forum was hosted by the Government of Japan, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Nikkei Inc., and the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). Women’s empowerment is one of the priorities of Prime Minister Abe’s economic policy, known as “Abenomics”. Because Japan is facing a decline in the size of its working population, the policy calls for an increase in women entering the workforce.
Representatives from the United States shared some expertise on the issue with their Japanese counterparts at the three-day meeting. US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, Ms. Catherine Russell, discussed promoting active roles for women in the economy and in policy making. Ambassador Russell highlighted the importance of empowering women for addressing the global challenges of energy, water, food shortages, and healthcare. She stated that her objective in her current role is to promote stability, peace, and development by empowering women politically, socially, and economically around the world.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also participated in the event via video-link. In introducing Secretary Clinton, US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy highlighted Ms. Clinton’s important contribution to women’s empowerment by advocating for political rights, economic security, and education opportunities for women for almost 40 years. In her video message, Ms. Clinton also pointed out countries with greater gender equality tend to be more economically competitive.
In his speech at the Tokyo event, Prime Minister Abe stated the goal that Japan will have women occupying 30% of leadership positions by 2020, noting that Japan has some catching up to do. The World Economic Forum reported that Japan’s ranking for female equality currently ranks 105th out of 136 countries in its 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, falling four places from its position of the year before.