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How Women Can Empower Their Lives through Communication

An event in Otemachi featured speakers such as former Justice Minister Masako Mori, who shared how communication could be a potent tool for empowering women.



Former Justice Minister Masako Mori and JAPAN Forward journalist Arielle Busetto on March 9. (©JAPAN Forward)

On March 9, an event titled "Innovate Our Future" was held at the Otemachi Financial City South Tower. It focused on how women can use communication to empower themselves in the workplace and everyday life.

Two companies led by women hosted the event. The first was kay me, a brand that creates stylish low-maintenance business wear for busy women. The firm was represented by founder and lead designer Junko Kemi.

The second enterprise hosting the event was SBM Lab, a company focused on beauty and wellness products. Representative Director Shiyo Yamana took the floor as a moderator in the panel discussion. 

Junko Kemi, founder and lead designer of kay me, one of the companies hosting the event. (©Innovate Our Future)

Former Justice Minister Mori

The keynote speaker was Masako Mori. She is a Liberal Democratic Party politician who served as Minister in Charge of Support for Women's Empowerment and Child-Rearing (2012–2014) and as Minister of Justice (2019–2020). Mori delivered a moving speech explaining her career, giving hints on how women should take charge of their future.

The former justice minister talked about "the power of coincidences," exhorting everyone to make the most of all situations. She gave as an example a serendipitous 20-minute conversation with the Ukrainian First Lady Olena Volodymyrivna Zelenska, which happened on the spur of the moment. 

Mori's CV suggests that she is a woman with drive. For one, she is a lawyer and a former minister. She was in charge of women-related policies when Shinzo Abe first forwarded the idea of "Womenomics." Mori recounted how after a meeting with then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the administration decided to help women cover the costs of in vitro fertilization (IVF). 

Passion as a Guide

Yet, the former minister didn't give the audience a roadmap. Instead, she encouraged people to be guided by what they were passionate about. "I didn't plan any of the steps in my life — I was just a ball of passion. All I knew was that I wanted to help others." 

Former Justice Minister Masako Mori gives a keynote speech on empowering women. (©JAPAN Forward)

Later, when asked about gender equality in politics, she said in an exclusive comment to JAPAN Forward that it is a tough world to enter as a woman. 

"There are many who have an unconscious bias against women, and it's tough to navigate that," she said. 


However, pointing to her stellar rise to Minister in 2012, she explained that a difficult moment for the government can be a moment when women politicians can stand out. 

And now is one such time, she argued. "This can be our time!" she said, her voice brimming with hope.

Communicate with Purpose

Another highlight of the event was the conversation between fashion brand kay me's Junko Kemi, acting as moderator, and Yumiko Hoshiba

Hoshiba is well-placed to talk about effective communication to empower women. She founded the publishing company Discover 21 in 1985, a time when there were very few women CEOs in the industry. "There were 1,000 publishing houses at the time, and only a couple had female CEOs," she said during the discussion. 

Yumiko Hoshiba, founder of publishing company Discover 21 and Representative Director and Editor-in-Chief of BOW BOOKS. On the screen it says "all communication has a purpose."(©JAPAN Forward)

Yet, it was in this context that Hoshiba learned how best to engage her counterpart, be it her readers, or a potential business partner. 

She first highlighted that communication is about purpose. Sometimes people forget that initial purpose. "What you really want is for the other person to trust you. But because you are afraid of being looked down on, you start bragging about yourself." In this way, the message doesn't come through without purposeful communication. 

Clear Communication

In addition, Hoshiba elaborated that to change people's behavior, it is important to move their hearts. And the best way to do that is to make your interlocutor the subject of the conversation. 

"You are writing a love letter to your counterpart," Hoshiba explained." She gave concrete examples of listening actively to gain a possible business partner's trust. Hoshiba further pointed to the importance of showing hope: "Show them the future that you can write together," she said. 

It was a stimulating overview from someone who had clearly built her career in communicating through different mediums. Hoshiba has since moved on from Discover 21 and is now the Representative Director and Editor-in-Chief of BOW BOOKS.


When asked whether her lessons held true for people from different backgrounds, Hoshiba was firm that the effectiveness of clear communication didn't change. 

"I've built successful relationships with business partners in Germany because of this," she explained. 

Communication Across Borders

The last session was a discussion between international business leaders on how best to tap into everyone's potential, especially in the context of women's empowerment. 

For example, Enteleco Consulting Director Tove Kinooka discussed how she leveraged her personality while being a leader: "I reframed being an introvert as a strength. When a person was talking, I could observe — I could offer reflective value and connect the dots." 

Panelists discuss business communication and cultural differences. (©Innovate Our Future)

Lyndsey Hughes, managing director at the firm Robert Half, echoed Kinooka's sentiment. "I would say to everyone to play to their strengths. Everyone has a unique superpower," he said. That way, the conversation could move away from women and men and focus on capability, explained Hughes. "The conversation then becomes more positive," he remarked. 

Global Head of IT Strategy & Transformation at Olympus, Jonathan Spraggs spoke to JAPAN Forward following the panel discussion. He highlighted the "importance of fostering first an environment which welcomes gender diversity, that way there is fertile ground for opportunities to grow." 

Cultural Differences

There were also less convincing points. For example, those exploring cultural differences in business communications.

Or more accurately, how "Western" practices differ from Japanese business communications. For example, panelists discussed the supposed difference in approaches between Westerners preferring big-picture thinking and Japanese starting with detailed planning. 

The discussion left out aspects such as the high level of professionalism normally expected in Japan, and thereby the widespread emphasis on attention to detail. A more fruitful account of how these misconceptions can be mitigated might have been useful. In addition, having one Japanese business leader with experience in global communication would have been helpful in providing a balanced perspective. 


Yet, the overall discussion throughout the day was practical and insightful, leaving participants networking enthusiastically following the event. 

As someone working in communication, it did make me wonder: How can I write a love letter to the next business leader I meet? 


Author: Arielle Busetto

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