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Gender Diversity in the Boardroom
It Matters and it can be Increased |

役員室でのジェンダー・ダイバーシティ 重要で高められるもの

Mikki Tomoeda  | ミッキ・トモエダ

Japanese men were few and far between at this otherwise successful and stimulating Board of Directors Training Institute (BDTI) event, held in conjunction with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Japan (CCCJ). As the panel discussion ended, men and women of various other nationalities, together with the Japanese women present, mingled to network and share stories. Perhaps the BDTI and CCCJ together with French, U.S. and other international co-hosts had not anticipated the effort needed to mobilize Japanese men to this boardroom mission.

How can we get the gatekeepers involved in this conversation about diversity in the boardroom? Facing the pages of the magazine in private, perhaps reduces fear of embarrassment, and makes it easier to keep abreast of changing assumptions. Workplace environments traditionally considered par for the course by some, are viewed as prejudiced by others (see also The HR Agenda: Diversity and Inclusion, Oct-Dec 2012). With this in mind, we invited one of the participants at the BDTI event, Mikki Tomoeda, to share some of her war stories with us. |

在日カナダ商工会議所(CCCJ)と協力してBoard of Directors Training Institute (BDTI)が開いたこのイベントは日本人男性が少なかったことを除けば成功で、刺激に満ちたものであった。パネルディスカッションが終わると、様々な国籍の男女が、出席した日本人女性と一緒にネットワーク作りに励み、会話に花を咲かせた。。おそらく、BDTIと在日カナダ商工会議所は、フランスや米国、その他の国の共同ホストたち共々、日本人男性をこの役員会の課題に参加させるために必要な努力を予期していなかったのだろう。 私たちはどうやったら、この役員室におけるダイバーシティに関する会話に、そのドアを守る者たちを巻き込むことができるだろうか?

恥をかく心配なしに、一人で雑誌のページをめくることの方が、ある人たちにとっては自明の職場環境の前提を再検討しやすいかもしれない。しかし、別の人たちにはそれがジェンダー・ダイバーシティにとってマイナスと映るであろう「(The HR Agenda」、2012年10-12月号「多様性と包摂」参照)。このことを念頭に、このBDTIのイベントに参加したミッキ・トモエダ氏に彼女自身の戦いの語っていただこう。

Originally written in English

     The October 2012 “Gender Diversity in the Board Room” event was a pleasant change from other events I have attended with a similar topic, in that it was more positively focused on how women can contribute more at the management and board level in organizations.

     When I first joined the work force in Japan in 1989, only a short while after the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was passed, our company had begun to hire a handful of women in professional roles. Despite changes in rules and regulations, common practices and stereotypes posed a challenge for any young woman, and most quit within a few years. I recall that my female colleagues and I (systems engineers) were required to arrive at the office early every morning to clean out ashtrays, wipe desks and PC screens, and prepare coffee for our male colleagues.

     Managers dealt with the implications of this change in the law in different ways. On my first day back from maternity leave, my manager informed me that my next project was a system deployment that involved travelling around the world continuously for 3 months. I asked him the reasoning for this, as the system product was related neither to my area of responsibility nor to our department’s. I told him that I could not do this project, with my baby only 6 months old. He replied, “So, you refused orders from a manager. It will go in your HR records.” Finally, this project somehow magically evaporated.

     Clients too, were not accustomed to interacting with women engineers. There were two rather amusing incidents that might help illustrate the daily challenges back then. I picked up the phone, to be told by a client, “May I speak to a man?” I asked a fresh graduate (male) to handle the call. After a few moments of his panicking, he put the client on hold and told me, “The client wants to talk to someone who can help.” I had the phone returned to me to complete handling the client’s technical problem. Another incident occurred when I accompanied the account manager to a client site, where he was scolded by the client saying, “I thought you said you will bring an engineer, not a girl!”

     Over the years, I believe clients and companies have become more accepting of women in the workplace, after observing first-hand that women are just as capable. I have seen great improvements in the past two decades, and am optimistic that the mindset among the younger generation appears to be changing. In perhaps a few years, young professional women will be able to flourish in their careers. With more mentors at senior levels, competent, professional women may also begin to take seats in the boardroom while also having a family – without this being considered a privilege.

     Georges Desvaux of McKinsey indicated in his presentation at the BDTI event that there is evidence of a strong correlation between the success of a company and the number of women in leadership positions. Although correlation does not mean causation, the arguments that he presented on why companies should pay attention to women in senior management do suggest that effort made for gender diversity is worthwhile for business.

     However, some key enablers that he presented as part of the necessary “gender diversity ecosystem,” such as child care, including care for sick children, might be a luxury that only large and successful companies can afford. If some of this infrastructure can be made available publicly, or through cooperation between smaller firms, company size will no longer be a barrier to benefitting from a diversified workforce.

     Today Japan has amongst the lowest levels of representation on boards and executive committees in Asia (see also "Cost Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion"). I believe that with effort made by all parties – companies, government, men and women – we can improve the current situation.



     私が1989年に日本で最初に働き始めた頃は、ちょうど男女雇用機会均等法が成立したばかりで、専門職に一握りの女性たちが雇用され始めたばかりだった。就労規則で変更があったにもかかわらず、若い女性にとり従来の常識やステレオタイプが大きな壁となって立ちはだかり、たいていの女性は数年以内に辞職したものである。当時、システムエンジニアだった私と同僚の女性社員たちが毎朝早く出勤し、灰皿を綺麗にし、机やPCスクリーンを拭き、そして男性の同僚たちのためにコ ーヒーを入れるよう求められたものだ。


     顧客もまた、女性エンジニアとのやり取りに慣れていなかった。当時の様子を再現するのに役立つ2つの面白い出来事があった。ある日、私が電話に出ると、顧客から「男の人と話できますか?」と言われ、私が新卒の男性社員にその電話を回した。すると数分後にその社員がパニ ックになってその顧客の電話を保留にし、私に「この顧客は誰か分かる人と話がしたいと言っています」と言ってきた。そこで私がその電話に戻り、顧客の技術的問題を解決したのだった。もう一つの出来事は、私が顧客担当者と一緒にある顧客の所に行った時に起きた。そこに行くと顧客が「女じゃなくて、エンジニアを連れてくると言っていたはずだ」と言って、その担当者を叱ったのである。




     会社、政府、男性も女性も、すべての関係者が努力すれば、役員会と幹部会議で女性の参加率がアジアの中で最も低いという日本の現状 (前号「多様性と包摂の費用対効果」参照)を改善することが出来ると私は信じている。 



Mikki Tomoeda President, Taneaux. After graduating from the University of Toronto in 1989, she spent 11 years as a systems engineer and more than 12 years in management consultancy, focusing mainly in the area of IT governance and IT management of multinational corporations in Japan. Currently she is in the preparation phase of a new business related to children’s education.


ミッキ・トモエダ: Taneaux社社長。1989年にトロント大学を卒業後、日本にある多国籍企業でシステムエンジニアとして11年、ITガバナンスおよびITマネージメントの分野を特に中心としたマネージメント・コンサルタント業務に12年以上携わってきた。現在、児童教育に関する新しい事業を立ち上げる準備をしている。


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