Largest Ever Global Summit Of Women Kicks Off In Tokyo

Accelerating Access, Increasing Impact

The largest ever global women empowerment forum is coming to Tokyo, promising to tackle pressing gender issues and boost opportunities for women in business and leadership. Two days before the grand opening, Savvy Tokyo looks at what we can expect of the event and what it signifies for the women of Japan and the world.

Amid the enormously disappointing news last year that Japan was ranked No. 111 on the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap index — dropping 10 spots from the previous year’s No. 101 ranking — the country is on a mission to rank higher on the global gender agenda. Last year, we observed the first-ever election of a female governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spoken of his goals to have women 30 percent of leadership positions in Japan by 2020. This January, over 600 women marched on a cold winter night in one of the very first global women’s marches following the election of Donald Trump as the new president of the United States. Now, Tokyo is getting ready to host the Global Summit of Women 2017, an event that promises to address issues concerning women not just in Japan, but across the globe.

Panelist discussion at the Global Summit of Women 2016 in Warsaw, Poland.

What Is The Global Summit Of Women?

Organized by GlobeWomen, a Washington-based, non-profit organization led by Irene Natividad, which aims to enable women in the public and private sectors, as well as non-profit organizations to work together toward expanding possibilities for women in business, the annual summit serves as a leading global business and economic forum to get together and tackle women-related issues. Its main goals are to invite women in leadership positions from across the globe to hold discussions on women’s opportunities in business, as well as provide global networking opportunities. Held since 1990, the summit — often referred to as the women’s version of the World Economic Forum — is held in a different country every year and draws thousands of  participants, including renowned political figures, CEOs and influential businesswomen.

Goals Of 2017’s Global Summit of Women In Tokyo

Following last year’s successful event in Warsaw, Poland, the Summit comes to Tokyo for the very first time this year, drawing the largest participants list ever — a total of 1,400 people will be joining from 95 countries, a significant increase from last year’s 1,000 participants.

Delegates from Japan invite 2016 Summit participants to the 2017 Global Summit of Women in Tokyo, Japan at the end of last year’s Summit in Warsaw, Poland. 

Under the theme “Beyond Womenomics: Accelerating Access/Increasing Impact,” the summit will tackle practical strategies and practices in improving women’s economic status through the perspectives of the three critical triggers for change — government, business and civil society. The Summit will also recognize women’s achievements in an award ceremony and showcase various initiatives developed in different parts of the world to speed up women’s access to corporate leadership roles.

It will further offer opportunities for participants to gain an insight into doing business with Japan and the Asia-Pacific region through a number of sessions on leadership skills, business and network.

Noriko Nakamura, sixth from left, poses with participants and world leaders at last year’s Global Summit of Women in Warsaw, Poland.

The Tokyo Summit will be chaired by Noriko Nakamura, the CEO of Poppins Corp., a major babysitting and daycare company that has continued to address Japan’s need for improvement of maternity needs and support for working mothers. A well-known businesswoman, a former announcer and a winner of multiple business awards, Nakamura says she undertook the chair position with hope that the Summit will serve as “an agent for Prime Minister Abe’s goal to increase women’s leadership proportion to 30 percent by 2020; to increase global involvement and knowledge of Japan and provide future opportunities for business cooperations, as well as to provide role models for future young women leaders in Japan.” The hosting committee has invited 200 female university students to participate in the Summit with the aim of equipping them with better knowledge of the world and to provide them with opportunities for future business development. Nakamura says she believes that women are the key to global change and hopes that the Summit will serve as a trigger for domestic and international awareness.

Summit Program & Key Participants

The three-day event, held from May 11 through May 13 in Tokyo’s Minato ward, is broken into various sessions, networking events and panels tackling a wide array of issues. Day one will include dedicated sessions to doing business in Japan, followed by a special forum by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and an opening ceremony. The second day will introduce global and regional economic megatrends, a women entrepreneurs’ forum, several breakout sessions and panels, a youth forum and the Global Women’s Leadership Awards Gala Dinner. The third day includes a debate forum on work-life balance, a women CEO forum in accelerating corporate leadership, an introduction of successful global campaigns toward equalizing gender pay gaps, and other issues. The full program can be viewed here.

From left to right: Noriko Nakamura, Chair of Global Summit of Women 2017, Irene Natividad, head of GlobeWomen, the organizer of the Summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Masako Mori, former Minister of Gender Equality and a Vice Chair of the Summit’s Tokyo Host Committee.

Among the key participants from Japan (in addition to Governor Koike and Poppins CEO Nakamura) will be Fumiko Hayashi, Mayor of Yokohama, Masako Mori, former Minister of Gender Equality, Hiroko Koshino, founder of fashion brand Hiroko Koshino, Kathy Matsui, Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs, Haruno Yoshida, President of BT Japan, as well as several male representatives of top Japanese corporations, including Masahiko Uotani, President and Group CEO of Shiseido and Masaru Onishi, Chair of Japan Airlines.

International guest participants include renowned names and political figures, such as Leni Robredo, the Vice President of the Philippines, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Undersecretary General and Head of UN Women, Maitha Al-Shamsi, UAE’s Minister of State, Angela Mackay, publisher of Financial Times, Henryka Bochniarz, President of Poland’s Confederation of Employers, and Anja Kopak Mrak, Slovenia’s charismatic Minister of Family, Labor and Social Affairs.

Savvy Says…

The fact that such a large-scale global event is happening in Tokyo is already a huge step not only in recognizing Japan’s positive actions to improve women’s business and status conditions, but also in furthering Tokyo’s involvement with global agendas. The largest ever participation also shows the global rise in interest in Japan and women’s issues. Those are all positive aspects that need recognition and praise.

“Women are the key to global change,” says Noriko Nakamura, the Chair of Tokyo’s Summit. Here participants at last year’s Summit are seen taking selfies during a photo session at the event.

Prior to the opening of the event, we hope that the Summit will focus on providing actual solutions to gender gap issues, including pay, employment, healthcare and leadership, as well as purely women’s rights. Networking is a key to raising awareness, but we hope the organizing committee and each participant joins with a clear agenda of what needs to be done to get involved and move toward actual implementations following the event. We also wish that both Japanese and international media in Japan will become more involved in the event and report just as intensely as it does for other international gatherings happening here in Tokyo. So far, unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case.

The Summit will take place between May 11 and May 13 at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo’s Minato ward. For more information on the event, see here. Savvy Tokyo will be reporting live through Facebook and Instagram on the event and will follow up with a post-event report.

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