Last Sunday, the world celebrated all women and we were reminded why we need to continue fighting for gender equality every single day.
I had never thought too much about this topic before. I would generally define myself as a feminist, but it was not until this year that I truly understood what it meant. Feminists tend to be viewed as angry women trying to label themselves as better than men, and I would usually avoid the topic like the plague and just nod along to other people directing the conversation.
A few weeks ago, International Women’s Day (IWD) was discussed in a status meeting at work, and to make it short, I was asked to organize a PR event surrounding IWD. I only had two weeks to realize this. After brainstorming on one long evening over a glass of Kombucha, I came up with an event in in the form of a panel. The next day I handed in this event proposal, the higher ups OK’d it, and the race against time began. Through many many connections, I was able to reach out to four incredibly talented and successful women in the industry who were thrilled to speak on the panel.
Each of these women were remarkably different: in the path they took in life, as well as in their personality. They spoke about feminism and equality as if it was the most straightforward thing in the world. It was my first time moderating a discussion panel, and I only had one hour to ask them all the questions I had so neatly prepared. As the conversation was going, I felt so compelled to keep on asking more and deeper questions about certain subjects, but due to time restraints, had to bite my tongue and changed the topics.
The reaction to this panel was phenomenal, and I was completely overwhelmed. I heard many comments in the nature of “It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like this in Tokyo.” This shocked me. In organizing this, we did not assume we were pioneering in any way, but the fact that we brought up this subject put many people at ease; they felt comforted that we were finally talking about gender equality and neutrality in Japan. The panel was followed by drinks and networking time, and the conversations kept on going until late into the night. Various groups built further on the topics that were handled in the panel, whereas others touched on matters they thought should have been included in the discussion.
In 2020, Japan is ranked at number 121 of the world when it comes to gender equality, and went down 11 places from number 110 in 2019. The topic of gender equality is almost considered taboo; it is not talked about, nor is anyone trying to make groundbreaking changes. Most of the measures taken are superficial and imposed by old men in suits, as there are only few women in parliament. This is more than worrying. It is up to companies, public entities and politics to make changes happen in society and strive towards a gender equal world. I feel more proud than ever to have started on this journey and spark a conversation in Japan (and the world) that is long overdue.