Business magazine Forbes Japan in cooperation with LiB Inc, a Tokyo-based female employment agency, has announced the winners of the first Japan Women Award 2016, one of the country’s largest to date awards recognizing female entrepreneurs and companies working to promote gender-equal work environment.
The ceremony, held at the BMW Group Tokyo Bay in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, earlier this month, was opened by Yuriko Koike, Japan’s first female Tokyo governor who assumed the post on July 31 this year following the highly publicized resignation of former Governor Yoichi Masuzoe over personal use of public funds.
The award was divided into three sections: individual awards; company awards; and nine special category awards, recognizing companies who have established exceptional norms toward promoting women empowerment and leadership, as well as such who have worked to spread information and publicise those activities.
Among the 10 winners of the individual award category were Takako Akimoto, the head of housing company Sekisui House, Ltd’s engineering department; Sayuri Daimon, Japan Times’ managing editor and first female executive in the newspaper’s 120 year-long history; and Rie Endo, co-founder and director of Crazy Wedding for her introduction of one-month-long holidays and support for female employees to bring their children to work.
A total of 39 companies were awarded in the second category for their effort to promote female-friendly work environment. The awards, divided into three sections depending on the scale of the company, were given to major international firms, including snack maker Calbee Inc, for its success in increasing women in managerial positions from 7.9% in fiscal 2011 to 22.1% in fiscal 2016; Start Today Co Ltd, the operator of fashion online store Zozotown, for its balanced gender equality and work-life balance, including payment of equal bonuses and base salaries to all employees and the introduction of 6-hour daily shift; and Medicus Shuppan, a publishing company that has been intensively promoting female-friendly work environment for over 15 years, including the introduction of flex and work-from-home shifts for full-time employees.
The grand prix winner of the category award for promotion of female business activities was given to Procter & Gamble Japan, while those for leadership and publicity went to hotel chain Toyoku Inn Co, a company whose hotel managers are all female; and Uniliver Japan, the Japan branch of the company behind brands such as Dove and Vaseline, which has been actively promoting the company’s female-friendly work environment policies. A special recognition award was also given to Sunny Side Up, the Japan-based PR company, which became the first firm to provide financial assistance of up to 30% to female employees who wish to undergo egg freezing.
The only foreigner to receive the award was Helene von Reis, the newly appointed CEO of Ikea Japan.
All recipients of Forbes’ Japan Women Award 2016 were selected based on surveys about working conditions conducted among human resources managers and female employees of 1,000 Japanese companies, followed by an online voting open to the public and final screening by a committee comprised of members of the board of trustees of all related organizing companies.
The award, having not included women working in non-governmental organizations, activists, politicians, celebrities working on humanitarian activities or actresses who have had major female-empowerment influence, still represents a very small fraction of all women standing at the frontline of changing the gender status quo in Japan. Yet, it is a step forward toward promoting awareness of the necessity to represents women’s achievements and provide public support for their activities.
Japan was ranked 111th in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Gender Gap index, dropping 10 places from the previous year’s 101th.