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Unions demand more female representation in Japan media top jobs after sexism controversy

Mami Yoshinaga, central executive committee head of the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers' Unions, right, and Hanako Kishida, vice chairperson of the Japan Federation of Commercial Broadcast Workers' Unions women's conference, are seen at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Feb. 9, 2021. (Mainichi/Satoko Nakagawa)

TOKYO -- Media-related labor unions, including the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers' Unions (Shimbun Roren), revealed on Feb. 9 that they have asked their affiliates to up the proportion of women occupying executive positions.

    The number of female executives at media industry associations and companies that are members of media-related labor unions is extremely low, and about 70% of firms and other organizations were found to have no female executives at all. Amid recent global coverage of Japan's gender gap issues after the controversy over sexist comments by Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games organizing committee, the four media-related labor unions held a press conference in Tokyo.

    Regarding the derogatory comments, Mami Yoshinaga, central executive committee head of Shimbun Roren, said, "Behind the remarks is a social climate that belittles women. The media has great influence and responsibility, and we ourselves must change."

    According to a survey by Shimbun Roren on 38 newspaper companies nationwide, only 19.92% of their employees were female and just 7.71% of management positions were filled by women as of April 1, 2019. Of the 319 executive positions at the 38 companies, only 10 were occupied by women. At the Mainichi Shimbun, 23.57% of all employees were women. The company had no female executives, and about 10% of management positions are held by women.

    Furthermore, according to a fiscal 2018 survey conducted by the Japan Federation of Commercial Broadcast Workers' Unions (Minpo Roren), women accounted for over 20% of employees at all six Tokyo-based private broadcasters, but the proportion of female executives ranged from zero to 14.3%. None of the broadcasters had women heading their TV program production departments. As for associations in the media industry, there are no women on the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association's board of directors, which comprises 53 members, nor are there among the 45 board members at the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association.

    Many reporters are seen assembled at a press conference by media-related labor unions in the building of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Feb. 9, 2021. (Mainichi/Satoko Nakagawa)

    Shimbun Roren, Minpo Roren, the Japan Federation of Publishing Workers' Unions, and Women in Media Network Japan (WiMN) have since the end of last year jointly requested four associations in the industry to appoint more women to their posts. The labor union groups asked that the media-related associations take specific action to achieve having women fill up over 30% of executive positions, such as establishing numerical targets and special quotas for women in management positions to take up; set up a standing committee which tackles the challenge of gender equality in the industry as a whole; and disclose an action plan by April 2021, outlining a goal of achieving the female executive ratio of 30% in all corporate members and industry associations.

    At the press conference on Feb. 9, Shimbun Roren committee head Yoshinaga commented, "While the Japanese government has upheld the target of increasing women in leadership positions to 30% for a long time, the media hasn't changed at all. Old media has struggled with the rise of internet media. We feel this strong sense of crisis that the current reality of not being able to reflect various opinions has also been leading the industry to decline."

    Yoshinaga also touched on Tokyo Games organizing committee chief Mori's remarks, saying, "There is an excessively small number of women involved in decision-making in Japan, and among them, the media carries a heavy responsibility for ignoring the industry's own gender gap. Is it not the case that expressions emphasizing gender or contributing to the enforcement of gender roles are being left unchecked? Such attitudes may have led to committee head Mori's remarks, as well as the character of our society, which laughs off such comments."

    Media-related labor unions demanding that the proportion of women in executive positions at its affiliate organizations be raised to 30% are seen holding a press conference at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Feb. 9, 2021. (Mainichi/Satoko Nakagawa)

    Hanako Kishida, vice chairperson of the women's conference for Minpo Roren, said, "This is not a problem that can be settled by Mori resigning. Rather, it can be said that committee chief Mori has a responsibility to push forward with the promotion of women and change how decisions are made."

    (Japanese original by Satoko Nakagawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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