International Cooperation

NWEC Global Seminar

Event Report

FY2018 NWEC Global Seminar: Promotion of the Advancement of Women - What Japan can learn from Iceland about Gender Equality?

Date:December 7th, 2018

Place:Shufu Kaikan Plaza f B2F Clarte

Registration is now closed. Thank you very much for your interest in our seminar.

National Women's Education Center of Japan will hold 2018 NWEC Global Seminar featuring "Promotion for Advancement of Women What Japan can Learn from Iceland about Gender equality?". An Icelandic expert of gender equality policy will give a keynote speech.

1. Objectives

Promotion of gender equality has been one of the key strategies to boost Japanese economy. Japanese government has launched a policy package to create a society where women can shine. Despite such efforts, Japan still faces ongoing challenges. For example, Japan slipped down to 114th on its ranking of the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) in 2017.

For the 2018 NWEC Global Seminar, we have invited an expert from Iceland who has been on top of the GGGI ranking for 9 consecutive years. Iceland is well known for its leading initiatives to promote gender equality. To name a few, the first democratically elected female state head was Icelandic woman and the number of paternity leave reached 78 days in 2017. Ms. Brynhildur Heiðar-og Ómarsdóttir of Icelandic Women’s Rights Association will join us to discuss what Japan can learn from Iceland’s experience.

2. Theme

Promotion of the Advancement of Women - What Japan can learn from Iceland about Gender Equality?

3. Organizer

National Women’s Education Center of Japan

4. Supported by

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
Embassy of Iceland

5. Venue

Shufu Kaikan Plaza f B2F Clarte 15 Roku-bancho,Chiyoda-ku Tokyo

6. Date

Friday, December 7, 2018 13:00-16:30

7. Languages

Japanese and English
(simultaneous interpretation available, consecutive interpretation for keynote speech)

8. Capacity

80 people
(business people, researchers, administrative officers involved in gender equality, staff of women’s facilities, staff at embassies in Japan, leaders of women’s organizations)

9. Program

Keynote Address: Title : “Creating a Gender Equal Future, Together! - Lessons from Iceland”

Ms. Brynhildur Heiðar-og Ómarsdóttir
Managing Director, Icelandic Women’s Rights Association

Panel Discussion
Title: “Dialogue with Ms. Ómarsdóttir - Striving Toward True Gender Equality”

Japanese gender experts will exchange views with the keynote speaker about three thematic issues: gender gap in workplace, women’s participation in decision-making arena and gender equality for men.

Ms. Brynhildur Heiðar-og Ómarsdóttir

Gender Gap in Workplace:
Mr.Tomohiro Takami
Researcher, Department of Labour and Economy,
The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training

Women’s Participation in Decision-making Arena :
Ms. Kimiko Kubo
Managing Director,
Fusae Ichikawa Center for Women and Governance

Gender Equality for Men :
Dr. Kimio Ito
Emeritus Professor, Kyoto University,
Professor, Kyoto Sangyo University

Coordinator :
Masami Ochi
National Women’s Education Center of Japan

10. How to Apply and Application Deadline

①How to apply

a) E-mail
Please send the following information to
(Please ensure to make your message title”2018 NWEC Global Seminar”.)

b) Facsimile
Please download an application form NWEC website and fax it to 0493-62-9034.
1) Name 2) Postal code and address 3) Telephone number 4) Facsimile number
5) E-mail address 6) Affiliation

②Application Deadline: Monday, December 3rd, 2018
③Confirmation NWEC will issue a confirmation note to the applicants of the seminar.

11. Participation Fee

Free of Charge

On Friday, December 7th, 2018, the National Women’s Education Center of Japan hosted the FY2018 NWEC Global Seminar under the theme of“Promotion of the Advancement of Women – What Japan can learn from Iceland about Gender Equality?”at Shufu Kaikan Plaza f (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo), where active discussions among over 100 participants from home and abroad took place.

The keynote speaker for Part I, Ms. Brynhildur Heiðar-og Ómarsdóttir, the Managing Director of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association (IWRA), gave a comprehensively detailed report entitled “Creating a Gender Equal Future, Together! - Lessons from Iceland.” Ms. Brynhildur has been an advocate for gender equality monitoring legislation and government policies dealing with gender equality. IWRA is the oldest civic group established in 1907 to fight for women's suffrage, and has come a long way to reduce the gender gap. Today, IWRA is involved in a wide range of activities, from working in close cooperation with women participating actively in political parties to editing educational materials about gender equality used in high schools. Starting with the history of IWRA and a report on the activities the association has engaged in, Ms. Brynhildur gave a detailed presentation on various movements in Iceland that are about to achieve gender equality.

Regarding specific political movements such as gender equality action plans, parental leave, the equal pay standard that made it possible to build an equal society, she gave a clear conclusion that social change doesn’t come from legislative changes, but from political action. She then emphasized that without women organizing and demonstrating and running for office, nothing would change. She said that it is up to us, the voters, to demand changes and equality, since men in power don’t easily share power.

Referring to education, women's labor, and further correction of gender pay gap as future issues, she emphasized that equality is achieved only through efforts, and that there would be no advance without grass-root organizing. She delivered a strong message that the future of gender equality will be built through feminist education. She said that the strong women's movement worked as a major factor for making Iceland a more gender-equal county, and stated that it is only through education that we can change the world. The participants were deeply moved by this conclusion.

alt Part I Keynote Address (Ms. Brynhildur Ómarsdóttir)

The Part II panel discussion, under the main theme of “Dialogue with Ms. Brynhildur – Striving Toward Gender Equality,” was an enthusiastic report and debate. The current state and the history of Iceland are highly suggestive to Japanese society, and especially, the following three themes were highlighted as issues to be addressed – gender equality in labor, women’s participation in decision-making, and gender equality for men. Three experts offered in-depth commentaries on specific situations and challenges.

alt Part II Panel Discussion

Mr. Tomohiro Takami, Researcher, Department of Labour and Economy, the Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, addressed the issue of gender equality in employed labor based on detailed data in the presentation entitled “For the Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in Employed Labor – Issues Japan Should Address.” The main problem is the low ratio of women in managerial position. Laws and regulations are being prepared for gender quality, such as the Act on Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workplace (enacted in 2015), but Japan still has a long way to go. The ratio of women in managerial position is still low by international standards, and the gender difference in job experience in companies is quite large. Especially, it is clearly shown that less women experience corporate core duties and positions that lead to managerial positions. Then, why are there few female executives in Japanese companies? Reasons include a lack of women who have required knowledge and experience; women themselves do not wish to be in a managerial position; women do not meet the tenure required for a managerial position. Mr. Takami pointed out that work style reform with men involved is necessary in order to change the situation, and that women’s participation and advancement may progress in companies with no overtime work, shedding light on the direction for problem resolution.

alt Mr. Tomohiro Takami

Regarding the second theme, “Issues Surrounding Women’s Participation in Decision-Making and Policies,” Ms. Kimiko Kubo, Managing Director of ICHIKAWA Fusae Center for Women and Governance, reported on the present situation of Japanese women’s participation in politics based on detailed data. In her presentation, she showed that the percentage of female Diet members is 10% which ranks the 162nd in the world, and that the majority of the local assemblies have only one or two female members, analyzing factors that impede women’s participation in politics. As a conclusion, she suggested the following five actions to encourage women’s participation in politics: (1) Raise political awareness (political education, sovereign education); (2) Experience (training); (3) Role models; (4) Use local women’s centers as a hub; and (5) Use the “promotion law” as a tool. At the end, she emphasized the need to let young women exercise leadership, let them play roles on an equal footing with elderly people to gain momentum, and open up a doorway to organizations to encourage active participation. A proposal made by Ms. Kubo who has been working on women’s participation in politics and promoting it strongly over many years, and her perspective on young women in particular, was highly suggestive.

alt Ms. Kimiko Kubo

Prof. Kimio Ito, Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University, started his presentation “Gender Equality for Men and Boys in Japan” by pointing out the fact facing Japanese society that in 1970, Japan boasted the second highest female labor participation rate among the OECD countries, but, in 2000, Japan was overtaken by many countries and grew stagnant. He then analyzed the overall picture of the gender structure established at that time. He pointed out problems stemming from the fact that women’s potential abilities were not fully utilized while men were inflated – such as men’s long working hours; fixing of male-dominated labor practices; men being unable to achieve a happy feeling; women bearing a greater burden of domestic duties and childcare; escalation of women’s non-regular labor under poor working conditions. He also emphasized the need for gender equality policies for men while it is needed to further enhance the policies for women’s empowerment. Issues involved in gender policies for men include raising men’s awareness about gender equality; analyzing men’s problems; non-violence training for male perpetrators of sexual violence. On the other hand, men who are becoming aware of the contradictions underlying in the men-driven society are now addressing (1) Single father problems; (2) Fathering Japan campaign; and (3) Formation of White Ribbon Campaign Japan. Prof. Ito provided an update where a new big wave is about to arise and change the existing state of affairs.

alt Prof. Kimio Ito

During the later discussion, a question raised by a Part II presenter about how Iceland corrected a pay gap was answered that it was achieved by tenacious labor-management negotiations and labor campaign, triggering more concrete discussions. A number of questions followed one after another from the floor, resulting in active discussions. Through the keynote address and discussions, the participants gained clear understanding about the patient efforts Iceland has made to achieve gender equality and the equal pay standard. Seminar made clear what is needed for Japan and what Japan should do for the future.

International Cooperation