Breaking Down Walls

Learning from diversity management in the European Union

Kaori Nagao is a newcaster at NHK

Global political and societal upheavals in the United States, the Middle East and Europe have rapidly changed both the way, and the pace at which, we consume news. With political instability on the rise, and immigration a headline topic, it is essential that diverse and multicultural societies be understood.

On March 26, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Global Diversity Management Committee hosted Kaori Nagao at the Embassy of Canada to Japan. The NHK newscaster spoke about her experiences studying and working in Japan and abroad.

Career challenge

Since graduating from the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom in 1994, Nagao has sustained a career spanning 23 years at NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organization. She served as Paris Correspondent from 2004 to 2007, and has been the Bureau Chief for NHK Brussels since 2015. The latter posting had enabled her to gain first-hand experience of diversity management in both the European Union and Japan.

Of NHK’s 12,000 employees across Japan, women account for 17 per cent, and 20 per cent in the news section. Nagao noted that the ratios have not changed since she joined the company. She believes there is one central reason for this.

“Many companies, including NHK, employ more men than women because female workers tend to withdraw from the job at a certain stage,” she explained.

Referring to child rearing, Nagao said that many women, at about the age of 35, face the choice of continuing with their careers, or getting married and starting a family. Juggling both as a foreign correspondent is anything but easy.

“Working as a journalist is very laborious, very hard, and you have to be physically strong. And NHK obliges us to be able to transfer from Tokyo to other local stations every two or three years. You are, more or less, at risk of letting your family be separated,” she said.

The role of government, corporations and institutions is key to ensuring the correct management of diversity.

As a result, she said many women rethink their careers, or leave their jobs.

“If I were a boss and had been assigned to choose whether to send a young female correspondent to another country or not, I would have to consider their family si­tua­tion, because once you become a foreign correspondent you have to be flexible and available [around the clock] to go anywhere,” she said.

Despite these difficulties, Nagao believes that competition for the role of foreign correspondent is fair at NHK.

“NHK is an ideal place for women to work, because we are treated very much equal to men and we are valued according to our abilities,” she said.

Change is coming

The role of government, corporations and institutions is key to ensuring the correct management of diversity. When it comes to business Nagao believes one profession that encourages thinking that promotes diversity is journalism. Nagao suggested that being open-minded, studying abroad, and being in an environment in which you experience different backgrounds is a prerequisite for being a journalist.

In relation to Japan and Europe, she pointed out that Europe is used to diversity, whereas Japan is not.

“It’s because it’s not only about gender, it’s also about religion and ethnicity. They have more history of working and living together in a mixed cultural environment.”
However despite this diversity in Europe, she also saw social gaps among different generations of immigrants while in Paris, extreme-right movements gaining momentum and euro scepticism, which has changed the way people think about free movement.

“People started to think that it’s better to build a wall against someone coming from outside, rather than have co-existence and integration on the Continent. Its a huge turning point for Europe,” she said.

Looking ahead, one barrier to diversity for Japan is the gap that exists between domestic media and international news. The Canadian asked Nagao what she considers to be the role of media.

“The role of media is raising awareness of the reality … of course there are reports and news [from abroad], but the percentage of these is much lower than that of domestic news.”

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