Chizuko Ueno appeared at a talk show of the 24th International Conference for Women in Business held in Tokyo on July 7th, 2019. It was the first time that Chizuko Ueno participated in a business conference. The International Conference for Women in Business is a conference held and chaired by the founder and CEO of ewoman, Inc., Kaori Sasaki to provide learning and networking opportunities for women business leaders. Themes of the conference reflect the trend of business of the year. The theme of the 2019 conference was “scale up,” which meant for corporations, NPOs, and individuals would aim at increasing the size, volume, and capacities in a variety of areas. Among approximately over 1000 participants, 85% were women, the majority of them were corporate employees followed after by business owners, and 51% were in managerial positions. It was also reported that the average annual income of the participants was 8.34 million yen.

The conference had the main session, the round table sessions, and the party session in the evening, and lasted for 10 hours. The main session consisted of three speeches, five talk shows, and one speech. Each of the two consecutive round table sessions consisted of five different groups, totaling ten different groups, and the participants were able to choose the group according to their interest. Both English and Japanese languages were used in the sessions. When speakers spoke in English in the main session, simultaneous translation was available.

Chizuko Ueno gave a talk entitled “Why gender equality is important” in the main session. First, the modulator, Sayuri Daimon (Executive Operating Officer/Senior Writer, Editorial Writers Board, The Japan Times) asked Chizuko Ueno about reactions to her congratulatory address at the University of Tokyo’s 2019 Matriculation Ceremony, which caused a commotion in the media. Chizuko Ueno responded that among opinions on the positive and negative comments about her speech, women in their 40’s related most to her speech, which indicated those women had suffered from gender discrimination (in their families and workplaces). She also mentioned that she had been advocating the same thing (about gender equality) over the past 20 years, and the one thing that had changed was the University of Tokyo because otherwise they would not have invited a person like her to give a congratulatory address at the Matriculation Ceremony. Regarding why diversity and gender equality were important in the business sector, Cizuko Ueno did not feel comfortable with the expression used in the former session: “Companies that are promoting diversity among the employees are profitable (generating economic values).” Chizuko Ueno’s answer to the topic of the importance of gender equality in the business sector was as follows. Realizing gender equality in the business sector would contribute to social justice, increased business efficiency, and social changes towards sustainable development as well. Indeed, one of the roundtable sessions introduced three cases of corporations led by women presidents that were leading innovations for sustainable social development. Chizuko Ueno also proposed that each corporation should reveal gender ratios of those who applied and those who were hired in order to make the gender ratios of the business sector more visible.

By the way, I was reminded of feeling uneasy when I had participated in the International Conference for Women in Business twice before. It may be because I was not a person in the business sector but also because I could not see a clear goal of the Conference. In that sense, Chizuko Ueno’s talk show was significant because it provided the Conference with a purpose that was theoretically grounded. Furthermore, Chizuko Ueno reminded us that the current generation has more access to equal opportunities thanks to those women in the previous generations who had fought for equal rights, and she also expressed her sincere hope that a more gender equal society will be handed down to the next generation.

(Eriko Miyake)

(The 24th International Conference for Women in Business)

(Chizuko Ueno at a talk show)