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Messages from Keidanren Executives October, 2016 Women's Diplomacy

Haruno YOSHIDA Vice Chair of the Board of Councillors, Keidanren
President & Representative Director, BT Japan Corporation

Recently I saw a BBC report about the first meeting between Ms. May, UK Prime Minister, and Ms. Merkel, German Chancellor. As I read, I found myself thinking that these two female leaders will not tolerate any nonsense, and will face the potentially the biggest post-war crisis Europe has seen from a position of practicality and realism.

As for myself, one year has already passed since I was appointed to an executive position in the Keidanren. In that period I have joined overseas missions representing the organization. In the countries I visited, I noticed more women in leadership positions sitting across the boardroom tables meeting with Japan's representatives.

But their numbers are not large and women in leadership positions remain a minority. Women representatives do, therefore, have a shared sense of collaboration at these meetings that reach beyond country borders. At the receptions and coffee breaks after meetings, or even in the restrooms, women representatives often forgo professional talk to chat casually, commenting on each-others shoes, complimenting each-others accessories and pledging to meet each other when they are next in each-others countries.

These were not strategic talks or tactical negotiations. Relationships of women beyond national borders were improved with talks of "female spirit."

Ms Wendy Cutler who I met on a US mission is one such lady, becoming a good friend of mine since then. She was at that time Acting Deputy US Trade Representative and contributed strongly to achieve the general agreement on TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) as one of the key people supporting US Trade Representative M.B. Froman. When we met in Tokyo Wendy commented to me that "One-third of TPP negotiators from Asia were female. They were really remarkable in leading the meetings." While engaged in global business, I have often met females with a strong capacity for dealing with crisis. They approached negotiations with practical, realistic, and comprehensible views. We should highlight womens' pivotal contribution in the community and economic regeneration in the aftermath of natural, unexpected disasters. The Great East Japan Earthquake and other disasters globally are examples of this.

Historically, wars and disturbances were perpetuated by men against historical grievances. Now we live in an era — a paradigm shifting era — in which gender equality is becoming a reality. Both women and men are leading corporations and countries, with women demonstrating their invaluable contribution to progress.

If the citizens of the United States elect a female president in the next election, there would be three female Heads of State at the G7.

In the world of global politics, commentators agree that diplomacy is the best mechanism for international collaboration. I suggest that if a Japanese Head of State could ask: "Are those Jimmy Choo?" this would capture the business like but informal spirit needed for the current age.