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Jul 21, 2023
On Monday, July 3, 2023, APU welcomed Professor Chizuko Ueno, a sociologist, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and chairperson of the Women's Action Network (WAN), a certified NPO, to give a lecture on Japanese Society and Gender as part of the events celebrating "the New APU". At APU, which promotes diversity and inclusion, many students study with the aim of realizing a society where everyone can exist comfortably. This lecture by Professor Ueno, a leading expert in gender studies, attracted over 200 applicants from students, faculty, staff, and the public, exceeding the maximum number of participants, indicating the high level of interest in the topic.
At the beginning of the lecture Professor Ueno demonstrated the low status of women in Japan through figures such as the wage gap between men and women, the ratio of female managers, and the ratio of non-regular employees, highlighting the fact that improvements in these areas are hampered by an outdated taxation system and social security system. She also introduced research results showing that in Japan many large companies are considered "discriminatory companies" with significant gender disparities, while there are a considerable number of "equal opportunity companies" that strive for equal male and female participation, especially in ventures and startups. She highlighted the fact that companies with smaller gender pay gaps tend to have higher sales and operating profit margins, yet despite this the motivation to maintain the current organizational culture in Japanese-style companies hinders internal reforms, highlighting the persistent issue of slow progress in implementing changes. In addition, Professor Ueno addressed the issue of Japan's declining birthrate, stating that the birth rate represents the accumulation of behaviors among young men and women of reproductive age, which indicates whether there is hope for the future society. She suggested that the low birth rate serves as evidence of a lack of hope in society, and that this is a kind of man-made disaster that Japan's society has brought upon itself.
During the Q&A session many students raised their hands, expressing concerns about the current situation. In response to the voices of the worried students, Professor Ueno stated, "Change is indeed happening gradually. The gender pay gap is narrowing, and more women are taking on positions where they can participate in decision-making. There has been an increase in the number of women taking on roles in the media, leading to a transformation in the information being disseminated. We have women who have actively brought about change." Furthermore, when asked what hope women, as disadvantaged individuals, should have in society, Professor Ueno responded encouragingly with the following insight: "Feminism is an ideology that seeks respect for vulnerable individuals as they are. Men, who are not likely to become women, tend to discriminate without a second thought. However, every powerful individual will eventually grow old. Everyone will ultimately become vulnerable. If there is something positive about an aging society, it is the realization that we cannot help but imagine a society where even the strong show understanding for the weak," suggesting the arrival of a society where the strong empathize with the weak and encouraging such a shift in perspective.
Finally, Professor Ueno delivered a powerful message to the participants, saying, "I feel truly sorry that you will inherit such a world. However, even if it is gradual, changes have been happening. While I may have been limited in directly addressing the root of society's issues, I have inherited the will of the previous generations of women and managed to bring about some changes. I sincerely hope that these changes will be passed on to the next generation and that all of you will continue to build a slightly better society when you hand over this society to the generations that follow."