Japan's Ruling Party Wants More Women in Key Meetings (As Long as They Don't Speak)

Japan's Ruling Party Wants More Women in Key Meetings (As Long as They Don't Speak)
Image:KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP (Getty Images)

Japan’s ruling party, The Liberal Democratic Party, is open to having women attend key meetings—as long as they, you know, don’t say anything.

The regressive policy arrives after public controversy over gender exclusion: Yoshiro Mori, 83-year-old head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee, resigned on Friday after complaining about women “talking too much” in meetings spread throughout Japan. “If we increase the number of female board members, we have to make sure their speaking time is restricted somewhat, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” Mori said at a Japanese Olympic Committee Board of Trustees Meeting, according to the Asahi report. “We have about seven women at the organizing committee but everyone understands their place.”

Sexist comments made by Kengo Sakurada, a prominent business executive, also proliferated on Japanese social media following Mori’s remarks. Sakurada said Japan’s glass ceiling is “partly women’s fault” because “there aren’t many women who actively take those opportunities,” according to Japanese newspaper Iwate Nippo.

It’s not that executives aren’t attempting some “concessions” towards gender equality. Toshihiro Nikai, the 82-year-old secretary general of the Liberal Democrat Party, told a news conference on Tuesday that the LDP does plan on bring women into their all-dude meetings, so they could “look” and not contribute to the decisions being made, BBC reports. “It is important to fully understand what kind of discussions are happening,” Nikai said. “Take a look, is what it is about.” They are not permitted to speak, but they are allowed to submit opinions to the secretariat office after the meetings, according to the daily newspaper Nikkei, translation via Reuters.

Sexism is foundational and widespread in Japanese society, particularly in the workplace: In 2019, some women workers were banned from wearing glasses because they gave “off a cold impression.” That same year, women petitioned against workplace high heel mandates. In 2020, Japan ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index—the lowest of all “developed” countries—with one of the worst gender wage gap and percentage of women in managerial positions.

“People will just put women on them as a kind of PR exercise,” cultural sociologist at the University of Waikato Belinda Wheaton told Reuters. “I think it’s probably time to be asking questions as to why it is that we feel that men in their 70s or 80s are able to fulfill these roles better versus a man in their 40s or 50s, or a woman.” Indeed.

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