Tokyo to push Olympic sponsors on gender after public blunders

April 27, 2021

SportsTokyo Olympics 2021


Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee is moving closer to pushing sponsors to declare gender equality and diversity goals as it looks to overcome a series of public gaffes.

The organizer of the Tokyo games plans to unveil its own pledge to advance equality and inclusion next month, Chief Executive Officer Toshiro Muto said at a briefing late Monday, without elaborating. Mikako Kotani, who leads the organizer’s push to promote gender equality, said in a March interview that the Tokyo committee would follow up by asking sponsor companies, sports bodies and educational institutions to unveil their own targets.

While neither Kotani nor Muto mentioned any specific companies, the ranks of Tokyo 2020 sponsors include some of Japan’s biggest corporate names. Among them are Toyota Motor Corp., Nomura Holdings Inc., Fujitsu Ltd., Canon Inc., and NEC Corp.

Using the Olympics to advance gender equality stands in sharp contrast to the scandals that have weighed on the organizer. The most-notable incident occurred in February when Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister and then head of the organizing committee, said women talk too much during meetings. That episode would see Mori step down and replaced by Seiko Hashimoto, one of Japan’s best-known former female Olympians.

Public Outrage Over Sexist Comments Forces Changes at Tokyo 2020

Under Hashimoto’s leadership, the organizing committee established a gender equality team headed by Kotani and last month added 12 new female members to its executive board. That brought the ratio of women among the 45-member group to above the 40% target set by Hashimoto. Female athletes competing in the Tokyo games is set to reach 49%, the highest ratio ever, according to the International Olympic Committee.

The ratio of female members on the boards of listed companies in Japan was 8.4%, according to a March 2021 World Economic Forum report. That trailed a ratio of 11% in China and was far lower than 26% in the U.S. and 33% in the U.K.

Kotani, a former swimmer who was the first woman to be Japan’s flag-bearer during the opening ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is hopeful that getting sponsor companies to announce gender equality and diversity declaration will nudge forward more female leadership in the country.

“Our goal is not to restore the reputation of the organizing committee,” Kotani in the March interview. “We want to straighten up ourselves and put out there the right message to the world as we are under the spotlight.”

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