Did you know that only 20% of the world’s political leaders are women? This means that women only influence one-fifth of the decisions made around the world every day. Why does this matter, you might ask? Because if women’s empowerment continues to push for closing the gender gap, we need to be aware of who is making the political decisions for our countries. Since 2005, the United States Congress has been made up of only 17% women. That is almost ten years of no developments.
With little change, there is little to hope for. Until now.
On Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014, the Prime Minister of Japan appointed five women to the Japanese cabinet. This is the first time since 2001 that women have taken minister-level posts in the cabinet. The five women appointed were Yuko Obuchi, Midori Matsushima, Sanae Takaichi, Eriko Yamatani, and Haruko Arimura. They stand to take on roles such as, trade and economy minister, justice minister, minister of internal affairs and communications, as minister in charge of Japanese abducted by North Korea, and minister in charge of promoting women, respectively. These roles are prominent in the cabinet, and prove that women can and will continue to take on leadership roles that defy gender roles and traditional societal norms.
In Japan specifically, women hold only 10 percent of parliament positions and represent just 3.9 percent of board members of Japanese companies.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan took office in December 2012. During his campaign, Mr. Abe developed “Abenomics” to represent his desire and goal to revive the Japanese economy. In this plan, he also introduced “womenomics,” which illustrated his goals to develop and redefine women’s role in the work place. While Prime Minister had done little for the cause since he took office, this appointment proves his dedication to the progress of women, and can represent hope for the millions of women in Japan, and around the world who want to seek opportunities that have not always been available to them. By 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to have women in 30 percent of leadership roles in both private and public sectors.
In 1986, Japan passed its first gender equal-opportunity law. These five women represent more than any law could ever attempt to. While women have seen progress in some aspects of society in Japan, appointing five women to some of the highest positions in government gives hope to women in the country and around the world.
Encouraging women to seek out opportunities that they want, no matter the obstacles, is crucial for the development of women empowerment in every country on earth. While we can continue to research, discuss, and question the progress of gender equality, taking heart in this headway can open doors that haven’t existed before. Changing the number of women political leaders from one-fifth to 50% is a goal we should all have, because our world is made up of smart, unique and inspiring men and women, who should all have the equal opportunity to reach for their dreams.