UNU Senior Vice-Rector Speaks on Gender and Diversity at SDGs University Lecture

UNU Senior Vice-Rector Sawako Shirahase spoke at the “8th SDGs University Lecture”.

On 14 February 2022, UNU Senior Vice-Rector Sawako Shirahase spoke at the "8th SDGs University Lecture” on the topic: “SDGs from the perspective of gender and diversity: Constructing a better future". From a sociology point of view, Prof. Shirahase highlighted why gender equality has not improved in Japan for more than six decades and discussed how urgent it is for us to create a diverse society for the next generation.

Prof. Shirahase touched on the ‘global problem-solving paradox’, asking the question, "Are we all on the same path to solving our problems? To ensure the well-being of humanity, common issues need to be discussed and solved at all levels of society.”

While noting that gender equality is indeed a global problem, Prof. Shirahase pointed to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, which has consistently ranked Japan low. It has become clear that Japan's female workforce is skewed towards low-paid, part-time jobs. This is mainly because part-time jobs make it easier for women in Japan to accommodate their family responsibilities. The Index also confirms that the percentage of women in senior roles in Japan is very limited among OECD countries. Prof. Shirahase further noted: "For Japan, the gender gap in the employment rate among those with higher education is larger than in any other countries."

Prof. Shirahase and SDGs University Commissioner Hidemitsu Sasatani discussed what could be done to bring change in Japan.

"Managers should take the lead in making their workplace more innovative and more comfortable for their workers with different backgrounds. They play a key role to educate, to change and to increase motivation for not only women but also men. We need to work actively to create a new business environment and to introduce new types of jobs and positions for women."

Prof. Shirahase stressed the value of why we need diversity in our society: “Diversity is not just about differences, it is also about inclusiveness, which is to consider the presence of minorities. Society needs to ensure that equal access of various resources should be guaranteed to people from different backgrounds and situations.” Prof. Shirahase concluded the lecture by introducing ways to create a diverse and inclusive society.

“We need to create a system that welcomes and supports innovative ideas and implementation of new skills. Such efforts and systems would help create a sustainable society for future generations. Being diverse can be crucial to build an inclusive society.”

The “8th SDGs University Lecture” was co-hosted by the SDGs Research Institute and UNU.  The SDGs Research Institute is a collaborative research institute that aims to incorporate "social wellbeing" through business to improve the health and the well-being of society. The SDGs University Lecture Series began in 2020 as one of the Institute's projects and has been held in collaboration with Aoyama Gakuin University and the UNU to introduce SDGs initiatives and provide a place for learning.

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