By Reiko Bando
The Japan News, Tokyo / Asia News Network
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) While there have been seven female governors in Japan, Yuriko Koike is the first female governor of Tokyo. She ran her campaign on a message of supporting women and children. Koike vows to specifically tackle caregiving issues that often hold women back from rising up the career ladder.
The Japan News, Tokyo / Asia News Network
At home and abroad, more and more female leaders have come to prominence and promoted policies for women.
Most recently, Yuriko Koike became the first female governor of Tokyo, with hopes that various perspectives will be reflected in her policies.
“Half of the public are women,” said an expert on women’s policy issues. “It is natural for women to hold leadership positions.”
Koike, 64, is the seventh female governor in Japan since Fusae Ota was elected Osaka governor in February 2000. Among incumbent governors, Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi and Yamagata Gov. Mieko Yoshimura are women.
During the gubernatorial election campaign in July, Koike displayed a message on one campaign vehicle that said, “Promote women’s power.”
Koike solicited support from women and swing voters of all generations.
“Policies for women have almost been left behind. I will seriously tackle them,” she said during her campaign. “Children on waiting lists for admission to day care centers means mothers are also waiting. I promise to create an environment where such mothers can play more active roles.”
In an interview following her election, Koike reiterated her intention to thoroughly promote policies for women and address such issues as day care center waiting lists.
History of female leadership
The first female municipal leader after the end of World War II was a village mayor who was elected in the unified local elections in 1947. In 1991, the first female mayor was elected in Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
At present, among 813 cities and wards across the nation, 18 have female mayors, including the ordinance-designated cities of Sendai and Yokohama and the Shiga prefectural capital of Otsu.
Municipalities that have female leaders are active in promoting women’s advancement.
The Cabinet Office compiled a survey in December 2015 on women’s participation in accordance with prefectures. According to the survey, the percentage of female recruits who passed local civil servant exams was 35.5 per cent in Yamagata Prefecture and 32.1 per cent in Hokkaido, which ranked fourth and eighth among all prefectures.
When it comes to the percentage of women on councils and other local government bodies, both prefectures also ranked high.
Yokohama Mayor Fumiko Hayashi placed a policy of achieving a city where women can work comfortably and take on active roles, at the top of the basic policy measures in the mid-term, four-year plan starting from fiscal 2014. The city also set a goal of increasing the percentage of women in administrative positions to 30 per cent by 2020.
Meanwhile, Otsu Mayor Naomi Koshi created a new section for women’s empowerment and advancement, which promotes support for women to maintain a work-life balance.
Hitoshi Suzuki, chief researcher of Daiwa Institute of Research Ltd. who is familiar with issues concerning the promotion of women’s advancement, said: “Due to the stereotypical perception of gender roles, the burdens of childcare, nursing care and household chores are disproportionately shouldered by women. It is significant that women who are aware of the problem become heads of local governments and work on policies directly related to people’s lives.”
Outside Japan, Theresa May has recently become the first female British prime minister in 26 years, while in the United States, Hillary Clinton has received considerable attention as the first female Democratic Party presidential candidate.
“The number of countries where women have held leadership positions such as president and prime minister has gradually increased, reaching 50 per cent in 2015,” Suzuki said. “The emergence of female leaders is now the global trend.”
He added: “It is of great significance that a female governor was born in the capital of Japan, which aims for the promotion of women’s advancement. This will also be appealing to other countries. What is most important is the results of her work, though. It is necessary to carefully observe the new governor’s work.”
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