Too many people fall back on stereotypes of Japanese women in the workplace and the home, stereotypes that are outdated and unhelpful. Yet every day, as a long-time resident and businesswoman in Tokyo, I meet and work with many talented, brave and hard-working Japanese women. Prime Minister Abe may talk of “womenomics” but these women are the real deal.
"[The project] has empowered the women involved to speak up about their experiences."
They are just not recognised for their achievements.
So just on a year ago I decided to start a project: Celebrating Women in Japan.
Every day since I’ve posted a profile in English and Japanese celebrating a woman in Japan. These women are not just successful in business; the project is a genuine celebration of women from all walks to life with so many lessons to offer.
We have profiled women living in Japan as well as overseas; from the city and the regions; the young and the old; and from industries ranging from cyber security to medicine and wedding planning.
I’m clearly not alone in wishing to celebrate women in Japan: since the project started it has gained over 3000 followers on Twitter. It has started a conversation on social media in English and Japanese about recognising and celebrating women’s achievements. The community following the project - which includes a good chunk of foreign corporates - has had its eyes opened about the breadth of engagement Japanese women already have in the workplace.
Importantly, it has also empowered the women involved to speak up about their experiences and network with other women profiled as part of the project.
I believe breaking down stereotypes about Japanese women requires a fundamental and Japan-driven change. But by profiling one woman a day - changing hearts and minds bit by bit – I hope “from little things, big things grow”.
Today for International Women’s Day, I chose just four of the hundreds of stories of women involved in the Celebrating Women in Japan project. Each woman was asked to share their story, their advice for other women and what they think Japanese companies or the Japanese government could do to help women in Japan.