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Tokyo Games organizing committee to raise ratio of female board members to over 40%

Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto attends a Tokyo 2020 executive board meeting in Tokyo, on March 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, Pool)

TOKYO -- The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games took a step toward promoting gender equality on March 2 by deciding to increase the percentage of its female board members to over 40%.

    By bringing the ratio in line with international sporting world standards, the committee aims to restore the image of the Tokyo Games that was damaged by former president Yoshiro Mori's sexiest remarks. However, with less than five months to go until the opening of the games, some are questioning how effective the reforms will be.

    In 2017, the Japan Sports Agency, the Japanese Olympic Committee and three other major sports organizations in Japan signed the Brighton Plus Helsinki Declaration, which aims to achieve gender equality in the sports world. The declaration calls for raising the percentage of female board members in sports organizations to 40%, but according to a survey conducted by the Japan Sports Agency in March 2019, the average percentage of female board members in National Federations is 15.6%. As the host country of the upcoming Olympics, this has been a major challenge for Japan.

    However, there is no denying the impression that this is a stopgap measure to fill the shortage. Within the organizing committee, there were some cold reactions such as, "It'd make sense if some male board members were to be replaced with women, but it can serve no purpose to increase the number of members by 10 or more," or "What can we do at this stage?"

    The board of directors is supposed to be a place for decision-making, but due to the role of the organizing committee in advancing the practical work for the games, the main agenda of the board meetings was to report on the progress of the work. There is a strong impression that important decisions had been made through the political skills of Mori, who has a wide range of personal connections. It can be hardly said that the opinions of the board members have been reflected at crucial phases, such as when making the decision to postpone the games and taking the subsequent actions.

    One person involved with the organizing committee recalls, "When Mori was president, there was an atmosphere in which it was difficult to express opinions." One of the reasons why Mori's comment that "meetings with a large number of women take a long time" caused such a huge backlash is that people have an aversion to male-dominated social structures that stifle dissent and make decisions by behind-the-scenes negotiations and adjustments.

    Mori described the seven female board members of the committee at the time as "all well aware of their place." Even if the number of women on the board increases, it will be meaningless if the board as a whole cannot engage in active discussions, and the question is whether it can break through the sense of stagnation.

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Asatsuma, Sports News Department)

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