Japan pledges $68m to scheme for women championed by Ivanka

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Ms Ivanka Trump at the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo yesterday. Ms Trump is a supporter of the Women's Entrepreneur Finance Initiative.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Ms Ivanka Trump at the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo yesterday. Ms Trump is a supporter of the Women's Entrepreneur Finance Initiative.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Japan has pledged US$50 million (S$68 million) to a global women's entrepreneurship programme championed by US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka, whose visit to Japan ahead of her father has attracted much buzz.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who made the pledge, shared the stage at the fourth annual World Assembly for Women with Ms Trump, a supporter of the Women's Entrepreneur Finance Initiative. This was launched by the World Bank this year to help women in developing countries set up business.

While Ms Trump, a glamorous businesswoman and mother of three, has attracted a lot of media coverage in Japan, she spoke to a half-empty auditorium filled with about 200 delegates yesterday.

She called for more progressive practices, including flexi-work arrangements, to be rolled out worldwide. "We don't define 'men' as 'working men'," she said, referring to the term "working mothers".

She urged delegates to push for a reduction in gender wage disparities, and for more female representation in traditionally male-dominated industries such as stem cell research and computer science.

Ms Trump also addressed the issue of sexual harassment, which is still very much in the news after allegations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had used his power to prey on women led more people to blow the whistle against other industry figures.

Sexual harassment should "never be tolerated", Ms Trump said. "All too often, our workplace culture fails to treat women with appropriate respect."

  • 1.5m Increase in the number of female employees in the workplace since 2012 in Japan, according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

At the same event, Mr Abe highlighted the improvement Japan has made in female workforce participation since he took office in December 2012. He said there are now 1.5 million more female employees than in 2012, and a 5 per cent rise in the number of women of child-rearing age in the workplace.

But Mr Abe has also drawn criticism for the overall slow progress in gender quality in Japan.

In the World Economic Forum's annual gender equality league table released on Thursday, Japan fell three places to an all-time low of 114th place. And on Wednesday, Mr Abe reappointed a 20-member Cabinet with only two women.

But he did not acknowledge these issues yesterday, instead discussing the successes of his trademark "Abenomics" policies.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2017, with the headline 'Japan pledges $68m to scheme for women championed by Ivanka'. Print Edition | Subscribe