A Look at Diversity and inclusion in Japan

Kicking off our first roundtable in Japan for 2018, we had the pleasure of co-hosting a diversity and inclusion discussion at Facebook’s Tokyo offices in late January. In attendance were HR leaders from AIG, Amazon, Astellas, AXA, BlackRock, Bloomberg, Brown Brothers, Chanel, Elekta, Genpact, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Jaguar Land Rover, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Nissan, PAREXEL, Siemens, UBS, and Wipro.

It was a packed room with a variety of industry representatives, with discussions focused around how they are addressing the crucial topic of diversity and inclusion in their organizations and industries. Below are some of the key themes that came up in our discussion:

Unconscious Bias

Managing unconscious bias, and making everyone aware they have biases they are not consciously aware of, is challenging. We were able to break down the employee population into three general categories in regards to diversity and inclusion:

  • Active allies: Those who are active representatives of diversity and inclusion on their own initiative.
  • Passive allies: those who, perhaps, would like to speak up and address certain issues, but simply choose not to.
  • Detractors: Individuals who, unbeknownst to themselves, are actively detracting from a diverse & inclusive working environment due to inherent biases and behaviors.

Facebook has graciously made their internal training contents on unconscious bias publicly available for others to use: https://managingbias.fb.com/.

Identifying and Empowering Allies

From the employee populations above, it is important to take those who will help spread diversity and inclusion throughout the organization, and for everyone to understand it is not just an HR agenda, but a company-wide agenda. Whether it is a mentorship program, or a group session themed on specific diversity and inclusion topics, it is important to find those in your organization who are willing to participate actively as leaders and allies. It is also important to identify and award these individuals as allies in the mission your company is aiming to accomplish.


KPIs or No KPIs?

The eternal question: if we do not measure it, does it exist? The group was quite divided on this topic and gave valid reasoning for tracking or not tracking certain diversity and inclusion agendas. While some maintained the stance that solid metrics, data, and goalposts will help educate and speed up the agendas, others believed that awareness is the overall key, and not to pressure hitting targets for the sake of simply hitting targets, which may have more of a harmful, rather than helpful, effect.

Another key around this, for global organizations in particular, was to be sensitive to global versus local perceptions of diversity and inclusion agendas. This is especially important in countries like Japan where there exists highly polarized perceptions of women in the work place, age hierarchy, and an abundant lack of diverse cultures in organizations. The group suggested not to try and tackle such tough agendas all at once, but year-by-year, and layer-by layer-layer, starting with those you feel would be the most influential and working outwards from there.

The bottom-line has to be how an organization gets its diverse teams to operate naturally and effectively. How an organization sets itself up to create a diverse and inclusive environment makes all the difference.

What People Had to Say

It was a pleasure to be invited to the meeting and to exchange best practices on how we can influence and embed Diversity & Inclusion in a large organization, and also build new HR networks across different industries.

Naoto Uda, HR Director at UBS

Very inspiring meeting. Exchanging the challenges and best practices of the different industries helped me to have more diverse ideas.

Kazuko Yoshida, HR Director at Chanel

It was a great opportunity to exchange thoughts about gender diversity in Japan with global HR specialists. I learned about best practices in Japan.

Mayo Yoshino, D&I Lead at Astellas Pharmaceuticals