At a summit held in September 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets. Of these, Goal #5 is unambiguously focused on gender equality.
It is becoming increasingly clear that promoting diversity has a beneficial impact on both economic and technological development. Professor Sara Ellison of MIT announced results of a social experiment which showed that teams comprised of both men and women produced 41% more revenue than teams comprised of only men or only women. Further, analysis results released by Research Analyst Yukari Mochi of the Development Bank of Japan show that private sector research and development undertaken by men and women together leads to more economically valuable patent applications than those produced by exclusively male teams.
While the voices in opposition to promoting diversity may have disappeared over the past few years as the importance of promoting diversity has become more universally recognized, this has not, unfortunately, translated into significant action at the workplace level. According to the annual results released by the World Economic Forum in 2017, Japan has fallen to 114th out of 144 countries in terms of the Gender Gap Index, and it continues to move incrementally downward. Such “agreement in principle but not in practice” is arguably an example of how Japan’s mature organizations and institutions seem to be systemically intractable in the face of change.
When President Shigenobu Okuma announced Waseda University’s mission statement in 1913, he expressly emphasized the importance respecting individuality. Waseda University is truly a gathering place, as well as launching ground, for diverse and talented people. However, in order to achieve real, ongoing progress, the university needs to go beyond the overarching goal of the SDGs to ensure that no one is left behind and create an environment in which everyone is both welcome and able to participate fully. By steadily promoting diversity while carefully addressing workplace challenges on an individual basis, Waseda University will be able to produce the sort of talented, innovative people through whom Society 5.0(*) will be realized.
*Society 5.0: As put forward in the government’s 5th Science and Technology Basic Plan, this is an envisioned “super smart society” that will ensure Japan’s position as a global leader and which will be realized through a series of initiatives.
Director, Office for Promotion of Equality and Diversity, Waseda University
Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering
Appointed September 21, 2018