Gender empowerment still has long way to go. Why? – Advanced Technology Award ceremony and “Race for the Exits (Japanese title “The Struggle of Japan, ‘the last nation of socialism’ ”)


  On July 4th, I had an opportunity to present a 20 minute keynote speech at the Advanced Technology Award ceremony. Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado whom I have met in Okinawa recently was also present. The summary of my speech was posted as below on the morning edition of “Fuji Sankei Business i” the following day.

Keynote speech by Dr. Kurokawa:

●Let me focus my speech on a certain part of “Innovation 25” (note: this is a long term strategic government policy towards the society in 2025 which was put together by Dr.Kurokawa as the chair person). Considering on the basis of the framework of “Innovation 25”, I am disappointed with today’s award.  In the student’s category only two out of nine winners are women, and in the corporate category only one out of twenty five.  In the 21-year history of this award, only one non- Japanese was awarded. This is extremely abnormal. I urge you to be aware that this is not the type of the world that will continue to exist in the future. Here lies the message from the “Innovation”.

●Since the “development of steam engine”, there were 5 major waves of evolution in the paradigm of industry, economy and society. Now we are in a very mature stage of a paradigm which began since the mass production of automobiles in 1908; “oil, automobile, mass production of standardized products and culture of consuming goods away”.  Since 1971 when Intel developed micro processor, information society became an infrastructure and then the internet, Netscape, Linux and Google emerged. People who make the changes are people like you award winners who have the passion and tenacity to dedicate yourself in research, and take actions.

●The world will become united by internet. In the past, research and mass production (within a company) was connected in a straight line, but that does not lead to devastating innovation. What is important in future innovation is heterogeneity, diversity and adaptiveness. I made a candid advice in the beginning my speech based on a diversity point of view.

●A rival could arrive from anywhere in the world. Strengths can be further extended through competition, but to overcome weaknesses, you need a strategy to collaborate with the strong ones. Therefore I urge you to make friends all over the world and experience what is occurring in the world in issues like energy, environment, natural resources, North-South issues etc. and exert your entrepreneur spirit to solve these problems. Based upon that, consider what kind of country Japan should be or how your company wants to be.

In fact, out of the five 2006 award winners in the students’ category, there were no women. In the corporate reasearch category, only 1 out of 20 was woman. The only woman who won this award in 2006 students’ category was the first foreigner ever, so when you come to think about it, you can understand how Japan is closed-door minded. What do you think about it?

Recently, I found an interesting book based on this point. It’s called “Race for the exits “The Unraveling of Japan’s System of Social Protection””(March 2007, Mainichi Newspapers) written by Leonard Schoppa, an American who spent his childhood in Japan for 15 years. He knows Japan very well and has authored several books. The data used are precise and I think his observation and interpretation are to the point.

Japanese women’s participation in the society, as you can see in UNDP Gender Development Index (voting right, education opportunity and college going rate etc.) is ranked 8th in the world which is something great, but Gender Empowerment Index goes down to 43rd. This gap shows that women are losing the opportunity to play an active role in the society which apparently is a waste of human resource. For Japan to gain its vitality depends largely on whether they can fully utilize women’s power and ability. It is no small issue.  I have mentioned about this several times in the past, so please look up the keyword “gender equality”.

Unlike the “Feminism” act in the past, women became liberated compared to the old days with the introduction of elderly care system. As the appearance of “Parasite single”, who manage to live independently show, there are more choices for women to stay single and be free from the burden of having a husband. They don’t have to get married if they chose not to, can go abroad freely and choose not to get involved in bearing and upbringing children thinking it as a burden. (A while ago, it was thought to be ideal for Japanese women to get married, but how about now? This may be a stereotype value of a male centered society…) As a result, drop in birth rate is inevitable and gender equality becomes only a slogan, losing its impact on political reformation. As he points out, these are the backgrounds of the lumbering reforms. Never a truer word! The English title of this book is “Race for The Exits”.

Furthermore, excellent global companies are free to choose to go abroad to escape Japan where too many regulations and high energy cost impose burdens.  You can say that what remains then is a miserable society where people and companies stay because they have no choice. This is the scary part of global era.


By the way, regarding women’s leadership, there was an interesting article in Foreign Affairs, May/June issue. As I introduced in my blog on 2007/3/3 and 2006/1/28, out of the 8 US Ivy League universities, 4 of them, Harvard, Princeton, Penn and Brown now have women Presidents. On the other hand, in Japanese national universities for example, out of the 87 national universities, only Ochanomizu University (a women’s university) has a woman President. Also in this article, the author points out that while the number of women leaders in the political world is still limited, more than half of the world’s NPO organization are headed by women. The author then goes on to write about its meaning and impact on politics, so this article is quite interesting. I wanted to introduce this just for your reference.