I chose to interview Amano Tae as one of my engagements for the Global Politics EA project. The reason why I chose her was because I felt that she was a key public figure that has been discussing gender inequality issues openly in Japanese society. She recently was interviewed for a news article in the HuffPost where she discussed the importance of taking steps to ensure more gender equality in Japan and the work of both her companies do. Respect Each Other is a company that works with major corporations to work on DEI in the workplace. The work she does places an emphasis on creating gender-equal workplaces. Miraco is a volunteering society created for working mothers and fathers that aims to discuss and hold events that allow the government to consider the opinions of working parents to create systems that better support them. One of MIRACO’s most prominent roles in recent years was its involvement in the creation of the paternity leave laws. Being the founder of both these companies, I thought she would be the perfect person to discuss why gender inequality exists in Japan, as well as how it can be resolved.
Upon starting the interview, she immediately explained the main issues that are created in society because of gender inequality in Japan. She claimed that some of these included a lack of diversity in the workplace, a declining birth rate and a lack of progression in rural areas. Out of which, I found what she said about the lack of progression in rural areas of Japan the most interesting. She discussed how because there is no influx of population from diverse backgrounds in these rural villages, it is even harder to diversify society and change traditional views on women and men. She also discussed the problematic cycle that is created here as individuals move to more urban cities for work opportunities and do not wish to come back to their rural hometowns because (at least for women) it is easier to work and enjoy more equal opportunities in urban cities. This was new knowledge for me and was definitely learning that I could take to include in my final report. She also kindly explained a lot about the importance of redefining gender roles for both men and women. Currently, Japanese society is full of expectations for both genders (eg. male toxicity for men and expectations of how women should be.) These hinder the progress of the whole country and it is important to acknowledge and aim to break these barriers down. She further went on to discuss how progress is happening but it is much too slow to keep up with the world. To increase female politicians and create structures designed for both men and women, there need to be amendments to the law (like quota systems, parity laws, selective surname legislations and matrilineal emperors.) One of the most intriguing things that she said that I really learned more about was why companies have grown to prefer men over women in the workplace. She discussed how this was mainly because of the rapid economic growth in the Showa period of the 1960s to 70s where men that could work extremely long hours and create homogenous goods were seen to be the most successful and ‘usable’ for the company. This created a culture where companies preferred men that could work longer hours and didn’t typically like women that would have to take breaks in their working career to give birth or get married etc. However, she explains the importance of breaking this culture because Japan is currently facing a crisis where economic growth is declining. What is now needed is not homogeneity but more so new ideas and innovations that put Japan on the map again. This allowed me to consider the importance of diversity and gender-equal workplaces for the future of Japan.
*The link to the transcript from the meeting can be found here. A picture of the interview was not approved as she is a public figure.