The first female secretary to the Prime Minister in the history of constitutionalism
Director-General, Global ICT Strategy Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
I want to help achieve the world’s happiest IT society.”
In November 2013, Makiko Yamada was appointed as the first female Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister in the history of constitutional government as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endeavors to create a society where women can shine. Today, as the first female Director-General at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC), she is displaying her extraordinary ability at the Global ICT Strategy Bureau. The starting point of her pioneering life lies in a decision she made when she was a student at Waseda University.
First feeling of tension and sense of achievement she had as a working adult during the international negotiations
She grew up just a 15-minute walk from Waseda University. Ms. Yamada, who had often come to play at the Okuma Auditorium since before she reached the age of discretion, she went on to Waseda University as a matter of course. “My dream was to pass the national bar examination and work in the legal profession, so I entered the Faculty of Law. I took a seminar given by Prof. Takayasu Okushima, who later became President of Waseda University, and spent all my time studying law. I have fond memories of attending a training camp for seminar participants where we continued our studies and had discussions all night long,” she said.
Ms. Yamada worked hard to realize her dream. But when she was in the third year at Waseda, her father—a national government official—passed away. “At his funeral, when I had opportunities of talking with his colleagues and junior associates, I became aware for the first time that he had done an excellent job. That made me realize that working as a public official was a job worth doing, and I made up my mind to change my career path,” she continued.
Ms. Yamada passed the national civil service examination. In April 1984, after graduating from Waseda University, she was employed by the then Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.
“Immediately after I joined the Ministry, I had an opportunity to take part in Japan-U.S. trade negotiations. The content of the job was extremely stimulating. The tense atmosphere that made me feel I was playing a role in international relations, the great sense of achievement I had when the trade negotiations concluded, and the connections I established with various people—having such precious experiences at the beginning of my professional career was the starting point that has led me to the present day,” she recalled.
Even after those experiences, Ms. Yamada has continued maintaining a very busy schedule. In her private life, on the other hand, she got married and gave birth. These experiences motivated her to work harder. “I became all the more enthusiastic about concentrating on my work and doing a good job because I was able to be with my child for only a short time. At the same time, I started thinking that I wanted to work for a better future for children,” she added.
In line with what she decided, when Ms. Yamada was on loan to Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward Office and worked as its assistant head and later its deputy head, she pushed forward with measures for children to cope with such problems as being on the waiting list for admission to day nurseries and child abuse. Even after she returned to MIAC, she further broadened her career as exemplified by her involvement in enacting various important laws at the dawn of the Internet environment, and waiting for her at the end of her career at the Ministry was the important post of the first female Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister.
Considering my simple sense of justice, or my vision of how Japan should be, as important
The duties of an Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister cover a wide range of areas. Starting from public relations and responding to media inquiries, Ms. Yamada was required to coordinate various matters such as IT policy, measures for coping with a declining birthrate and children’s problems, gender equality, regional revitalization, and intellectual property strategies across the boundaries of government agencies.
“I was so busy that I worked almost 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Partly because I was the first female executive secretary, I had a tense feeling of being watched at all times, and that was hard. But I wanted to meet people’s expectations because I thought I was expected to take measures for the children from the viewpoint of being a woman, and my experiences at the Setagaya Ward Office were also helpful,” she said.
After having served as Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister for one year and eight months, she is currently a Director-General at MIAC and striving to enhance Japan’s international competitiveness in the field of information and communications technology, a source of economic growth in Japan. What does she try to do as the leader of an organization? Her answer was “In a mature society like Japan, it is extremely difficult to change things. On the other hand, the world is changing drastically. In such an environment, I consider my vision of how Japan should be in the future, or my simple sense of justice, as important. I will steadfastly hammer out policies to make Japan the world’s happiest IT society.”
Makiko Yamada was born in Tokyo in 1960. In April 1984, after graduating from Waseda University with a bachelor’s degree in law, she entered the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. Subsequent experiences included serving as head of the Shimoda Post Office (1990) and assistant head of the Setagaya Ward (2004) and its deputy head (2007), as well as studying at the University of London, United Kingdom. After serving as head of the Director of the Finance Division, Minister’s Secretariat at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (2010) and the Deputy Director of the Minister’s Secretariat at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (2013), she became the first female Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister in November 2013. Since July 2015, she has served as Director General of the Global ICT Strategy Bureau at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.