This Japanese Campaign for Women’s Empowerment Features Only Men

The initiative has come under fire for its lack of female representation.

Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speaks during "Womenomics: Why It Matters for Japan and the World," a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

Jan 22, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

As part of the two-year-old initiative dubbed “Womenomics,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has laid out a series of lofty targets aimed at boosting the number of women working in senior business positions by 2020. An online campaign recently launched by the local government of Kanagawa—a prefecture about 26 miles south of Tokyo—aims to support those goals. But critics say its questionable choice of imagery misses the point entirely.

The website for the campaign displays the words “Woman Act” in a bright magenta box, but the image below it depicts a row of 11 men in suits. Those figures include Shiseido CEO Uotani Masahiko and Bank of Yokohama head Tatsumaro Terazawa, Quartz reported. According to the translation, the image caption describes the men as the “cheering team” for “women’s success,” and the slogan below it reads, “Women will gradually take on leading roles.”
It didn’t take long for critics on social media to take notice of what they perceived as a glaring disconnect between words that seemed to champion women and an image that showed only men. “Where are the women?? 11 men and a pink banner encourage women to become more active in Japanese society,” wrote one Twitter user, who described herself as a Tokyo-based university lecturer researching media, gender, and women’s sexuality.

The country’s big push for gender equality has gotten off to a rocky start. While the central government met its goal of hiring women for at least 30 percent of its career-track roles, other targets have had to be adjusted because they were too ambitious. Last month, for example, Japan drastically reduced its goal to recruit women for 30 percent of all management roles; now that goal is 15 percent for local government and private companies and 7 percent for national public servants, according to Japan Times. The country’s labor ministry even offered financial incentives to small companies that placed women in senior positions, but after a year and a half, the subsidy program failed to attract a single applicant.

Japan isn’t the only country that recently organized an all-male panel for the purpose of promoting women in business. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week, four men in suits convened to discuss women’s equality during a panel called “When Women Thrive.” The only woman onstage was the moderator, as BuzzFeed pointed out on Friday. Images of men-only panels have been archived on the popular Tumblr blog All Male Panels, which was launched a year ago as a means of critiquing women’s exclusion from areas including business, politics, and academia. The blog has amassed hundreds of posts from conferences, seminars, and hearings around the world.