Mission Statement

Exploring gender diversity and empowering women-owned businesses

Vianne Timmons, Ailish Campbell, Seiko Noda and Mona Nemer

Canada and Japan work together on many fronts. International groups and agreements such as the G7, G20 and Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership provide strong bilateral links.

And this year marks the 90th anniversary of Canada’s diplomatic presence in Japan. As a way of highlighting these important connections and to advance gender parity in both nations, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada organized the First Canadian Women-only Business Mission to Japan. It included a series of talks that were held at the Embassy of Canada to Japan in Tokyo on April 2.

Strong Start

Opening the first day’s presentation was Christine Nakamura, vice-president for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s Toronto office and the mission project director. The mission was organized with a view to building women’s partnerships in the care economy. As Nakamura explained: “Japan, as an aging society, and with Canada following in its footsteps, made us focus on elder care specifically, as we felt that addressing the challenges and responsibilities of elder care through the promotion of women entrepreneurs in the sector could enable the emergence of a strong engine for future economic growth.”

Other discussions touched on the advancement of women in the workplace, trends and issues related to elder care and the care economy and how Ottawa can support women in business.

“It will not change if we, as women, just stand there and whine”

Global Women

Opening the first panel discussion, Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner and assistant deputy minister of International Business Development at Global Affairs Canada, spoke about the steps Ottawa is taking to ensure that investments are being made in women-owned and women-led businesses. She mentioned the Business Women in International Trade program and how it helps Canadian women-owned businesses to successfully expand into global markets by assisting with business planning, mentorship, investments and ongoing support.

Another speaker was Seiko Noda, chair of the Budget Committee of Japan’s House of Representatives and former deputy prime minister and minister in charge of women’s empowerment. She discussed women’s ad-van-cement in Japan, particularly in the context of the aging society and workforce.

Mona Nemer, chief science advisor with the Government of Canada, addressed the topic of how to support women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related education curriculum. Known collectively as STEM, these subjects are the foundation blocks of future business. She highlighted the importance of supporting the development of women in STEM fields.

Gender Parity

Another panel discussion, titled “Gender Diversity is Good for Business,” was moderated by Linda Mantia, chief operating officer at Manulife Financial Corporation. It focused on unconscious bias within the global workforce and the steps that can be taken to encourage diversity and inclusion. Other panel participants were Tomomi Sugahara, representative director of the Emerald Club, an association of women CEOs; Beatrix Dart, co-chair of the business mission; Janice Fukakusa, chancellor of Ryerson University in Toronto and co-chair of the business mission; as well as Yukako Uchinaga, board chair of the Japan Women’s Innovative Network.

Fukakusa spoke about her own experience at a large Canadian bank, where she was chief financial officer and chief administrative officer. “I said that everyone who brought a staffing list to the executive committee must have a female on the staffing list and they have to have someone who is a visible minority,” she recalled. Changing working conditions to benefit all types of people is critical in achieving success, she emphasized.

“Through developing these kinds of approaches, you build it in to the business process,” she explained. Similarly, Uchinaga said, “In Japan, we have to change the traditional, old style culture … If you want to be a leader in a business segment, you have to find a new business model, or you will not keep up.”

At the end of the session, panellists spoke about how men can assist in achieving a more gender-balanced workforce. Dart spoke about how men and women have to work together to really make a change. “It will not change if we, as women, just stand there and whine … It is much better to have joint committees where men and women can say, ‘This is a societal issue: how can we solve this together?’”

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