The Group of Twenty (G20) is an international forum involving 19 countries and the European Union (EU). Yearly, world leaders from each nation come together to discuss key issues in the global economy. This year’s annual summit, which was held on June 28th and 29th, was hosted by Japan where one event was aimed at empowering women in employment, education, and the economy. However, of all the world leaders who participated, only two of them were women.
Of the 28 female world leaders today, the only two in attendance were British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merke. This is due to the fact that Germany and the U.K. are the only two nations in the G20 that are led by women. However, the summit did not include Ursula von der Leyen, who is currently the President of the EU.
May and Merke were joined at the event by two women speakers: Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and Ivanka Trump. They urged nations to recognize women’s empowerment as an economic and defense policy issue. Even with their participation, though, gender representation was still wildly disproportionate.
Japan has a history with gender discrimination. The country’s gender problem has been referred to as a “human disaster” by Japanese scholars. Particularly, the lack of women in power influences the widening gap. Education is more accessible to young men. Women are not being employed because there aren’t enough women in hiring positions. And stereotypical gender roles are prevalent in the hiring process, leaving the higher-paying, more skillful jobs to men.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has been vocal about improving gender equality. In 2014, he introduced “womenomics,” one section of his larger political agenda which includes getting more Japanese women in the workforce. The percentage of Japanese women working has steadily declined in the last decade. When ranked among other nations in 2008, Japan was in 80th place for the highest percentage of women in the workforce, but by 2017, they had dropped to 114th place.
In 2014, Abe’s cabinet had the highest number of female members in Japanese history. His current cabinet, however, only has two women in it. This directly contradicts his mission to increase the presence of women in leadership. Why is he no longer keeping his promise?
One of the two women cabinet members is Yoko Kamikawa, who is an ambassador for the Women’s Political Leaders network. After seeing such low representation at the G20 event, she believes that achieving true gender equality in political leadership is still very far away.