A case for women

One of my many fun assignments is to direct MSH’s contributions to the Japanese Women Leadership Initiative. This role has gotten me involved in activities of the Boston-Japan Society. Axel and I attended its annual gala some months ago. This time I was invited to a luncheon that was attended by the economic affairs representative at the Japanese consulate in Boston. The purpose of the (sushi) luncheon was to bring together various women who have senior positions in Boston’s academic and civil society community and provide some insights on how to increase the role of women in Japanese society.

The Japanese Prime Minister has put women empowerment high on his agenda. Only a small percentage of women occupy senior leadership positions in both the public and private sector. A study investigated why this was the case and pointed at a complex set of interacting variables that are at play in just about any society: cultural practices and values, government policies, organizational policies, the educational system, the opinions of men and women, fathers and mothers in particular, and the near total absence of mentors and sponsors to encourage women to get into, and stay in the workforce in career track positions.

Education is obviously not the issue as the literacy and enrollment rates for both genders are high. It is what happens after school that appears to discourage women to embark on a career.

And now, some 36 hours later, I am in Japan, waiting to board my next flight to Manila. There I will be working on another one of my fun assignments: getting the world more responsive to people with mobility challenges – one wheelchair at a time; a wheelchair that is well fitted to its user and the environment in which he or she lives, and an environment that is accesisble to all its citizens, walking or rolling.

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