Symposium ‘Leadership for All: Theory and Action to Foster Gender Equality’

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11. 15 IGL/IGS International Symposium ‘Leadership for All: Theory and Action to Foster Gender Equality’
Series: Women’s Leadership in Asia 1

On 15 November 2021, Ochanomizu University’s Institute for Gender Studies (IGS) and Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) co-hosted an online international symposium entitled ‘Leadership for All: Theory and Action to Foster Gender Equality’. The institutes jointly organised an international symposium titled ‘Promoting Future Women Leaders in Politics’ in June 2018, inviting women politicians from Japan, South Korea and Germany to discuss the participation of women in politics with a particular focus on practical aspects. The 2021 symposium was designed to investigate the same theme as 2018 from the research perspective. Dr Rosie CAMPBELL, Professor of Politics and Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London in the United Kingdom, was invited as the keynote speaker. A panel discussion followed her keynote speech. The panellists comprised IGS professor Dr SHIN Ki-young, Sugiyama Jogakuen University lecturer and IGL visiting researcher Dr OKI Naoko and IGL researcher and Ochanomizu University assistant professor Dr Myles CARROLL. The symposium was held immediately after the 2021 general elections in Japan, and the ballot outcomes were encompassed within the established discussion topic. More than 160 participants listened to the panellists debating the gender gap in Japanese politics.

Dr Campbell began her keynote speech with an introduction to the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, established owing to the initiative taken by Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia. Gillard read the extant literature on the struggles of women politicians and sensed the absence of interaction and networking between practice and research. The Global Institute for Women’s Leadership aims to bridge this gap, promote collaboration and ensure that evidence-based knowledge can make a difference in the near future, 25 years hence.

Left: Dr Rosie Campbell (keynote speaker), Right: Global Institute for Women’s Leadership website

Campbell presented her research findings on the gender gap in political participation through her keynote speech titled ‘Understanding women’s political participation: a case study of the United Kingdom’. Female members comprise 34% of the House of Commons after the 2019 general election. The proportion of female MPs began to increase with the 1997 general election when the Labour Party wrested power by actively seeking to elect women into parliament. The left-wing party adopted measures, such as creating an all-women shortlist and placing women candidates in retirement slots. Other political parties, including the right-wing Conservative Party, have since followed suit and have actively sought to appoint women MPs. Thus, the UK has achieved the milestone of women MPs forming one-third of the total parliamentary body.

The voting practices exhibit no difference in turnout between men and women, but a gender gap exists in voting behaviours, that is, the criteria applied to favour particular political parties. A paper published by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris in 2000 entitled ‘The developmental theory of the gender gap: Women’s and Men’s voting behaviour in global perspective’ argues that women have historically been more likely than men to support the right-wing. However, as women become more educated and socially advance, they tend to lean towards the left wing. The UK, however, does not conform to this theory. The 2017 general election first confirmed the existence of a left-wing advantage for women in the UK, and this trend continued with the 2019 general election. Campbell’s 2021 paper co-authored with Rosalind Shorrocks entitled ‘Finally rising with the tide? Gender and the Vote in the 2019 British General Election’ investigates the reasons for this tendency.

This study examines the correlations between gender and age, values, support for leaving the EU and economic and fiscal pessimism and voting behaviours observed during the 2017 and 2019 general elections as well as the 2019 European Parliament elections. A significant finding of the study reveals that previous social patterns of class-driven voting behaviours are disintegrating. For example, middle-class women used to support the Conservative Party; however, they are more likely to support the Labour Party now. Moreover, some Labour voters, particularly men who favoured quitting the EU, voted Conservative when Brexit became a contentious issue.

The similarity between policies adopted by the Conservative and Labour parties marks a peculiar characteristic of the two-party system in the UK after 1997. However, the differences between the two parties became more explicit during the 2017 general election when Jeremy Corbyn, a very left-wing politician, led the Labour Party. The austerity policies of the Conservative government became the predominant election issue. Women under 50 voted Labour because they were worried about the long-term impact of public expenditure cuts on their lives, and their actions led to a shift in the predominance of women’s support for the left. Values, such as concern for the environment, were also reflected in voting behaviours. For example, younger women supported the Green Party in more numbers in the 2019 European Parliament elections than men of the same age group.

Campbell concluded that the gender gap in voting behaviours depends on gender as well as a combination of factors, such as age, nature of competition between parties and issues at stake at the time of the elections. Campbell’s analysis was based on publicly available and easily accessed data, but the UK media hardly discussed the nature of such gender gaps. Campbell expressed that she understood the significance of such research findings being shared with the public at large.

From left: Dr Carroll, Dr Oki and Dr Shin (discussants).

The panel discussion began with a comment by Dr Carroll, who spoke about the results of the 2021 general elections in Japan, following which the elected female members constituted a mere 9.7% of the House of Representatives, despite the stipulations of the Act on Promotion of Gender Equality in the Political Field, which came into force in 2018. This act requires political parties to adopt measures to increase the number of female candidates, but its implementation has been unsuccessful. In particular, the currently ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) appeared reluctant to appoint women. According to Carroll, socio-cultural and economic gender gaps were primarily responsible for the inadequacies in the representation of women in parliament. The notion that politics is a man’s job continues to prevail in Japan. Women in Japan are primarily responsible for unpaid household labour, and it is a challenge for them to obtain the three elements they purportedly require to get elected to a public post: jiban (regional electoral base), kanban (fame) and kaban (money). The persistent traditional gender norms represent major obstacles to the increase in the number of women MPs in Japan.

Dr Oki elucidated the gender imbalance in local councils in Japan. Women councillors represent about 15% of the local assemblies. Differences prevail between prefectural and municipal levels and between urban and rural areas, and the number of women councillors is usually small. Like the MPs, the number of LDP women councillors is minimal. However, women councillors of the LDP are increasing steadily but gradually, and Dr Oki has been attention observing to this trend.

Dr Shin described the current political situation in Japan as a crisis of political representation, just as Carroll and Oki had explained. Further, the general election results reveal the scarcity of MPs in their 20s and 30s and also display a low percentage of women of that age group. It is therefore highly unlikely that the political representation of women will improve in the near future. In addition, several younger members of parliament elected are male members of the Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai) and are hereditary members of the LDP; it is hence unlikely that a diversity of young voices will soon be reflected in politics. Consequently, Shin predicted that youth would become disengaged from politics and that the distrust of politics could continue.

The discussion that ensued focused on the importance of party competition and the changes owing to an increase in the number of women MPs. In general, political parties seek to increase the number of women candidates to win women’s votes. In Japan, however, the LDP government has been able to sustain power without undertaking such measures. It is reasonable under the circumstances that no internally-instigated movement for change is observed within the party. Too much competition between parties may cause a problem; too little competition can also lead to political stagnation. Campbell suggested that the low representation of women and the failure to reflect societal changes in politics could be attributed to the lack of competition between political parties.

Shin enumerated the positive effects of the increase in the number of women MPs, asserting that the results reported by studies in other East Asian countries revealed that male members of parliaments also became more interested in gender issues as the number of women MPs increased. Oki further indicated that an increase in the number of women politicians encourages the reconsideration of phenomena taken for granted in a predominantly male environment. Such questioning could lead to the elucidation of necessary skills for political representatives and consequently improve the training of newly recruited candidates. Appropriate training methodologies and processes could improve the quality of politics and then restore the trust of the Japanese people in politics.

As described above, the symposium entailed an in-depth and lively discussion on women’s participation in politics. As Campbell stressed that the outcomes of studies and academic debates must be disseminated to the public at large to contribute to the improvement of women’s political participation, encourage the development of female political leaders and enhance the general quality of politics. A report summarising the discussion in this symposium will be published at a later date and made available on the University website.

From left: IGS Director TOTANI Yoko (MC), Vice-President ISHII-KUNTZ Masako (introductory remarks), IGL Director KOBAYASHI Makoto (panel discussion moderator).

Reported by YOSHIHARA Kumi (Research Administrator, IGS)

《Event Details》
IGL/IGS International Symposium
‘Leadership for All: Theory and Action to Foster Gender Equality’
Series: Women’s Leadership in Asia 1 

【Date】Monday, 15 November, 2021, 18:00 – 20:00
【Venue】Online (Zoom Webinar)
【MC】TOTANI Yoko (Professor and IGS Director, Ochanomizu University)
【Opening Remarks and introduction】ISHII-KUNTZ Masako (Vice President and Trustee and Director of Research Organization for the Promotion of Global Women’s Leadership, Ochanomizu University)
【Panel discussion moderator】KOBAYASHI Makoto (Professor and IGL Director, Ochanomizu University)
【Keynote Speech】
Rosie CAMPBELL (Professor of politics and Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, King’s College London)
‘Understanding women’s political participation: a case study of the United Kingdom’
Myles CARROLL (Assistant Professor, IGL Researcher, Ochanomizu University)
OKI Naoko (Lecturer, Sugiyama Jogakuen University, IGL Visiting Researcher)
SHIN Ki-young (Professor, IGS, Ochanomizu University)
【Organizer】Research Organization for the Promotion of Global Women’s Leadership
[Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) and Institute for Gender Studies (IGS)]
【Language】English and Japanese (with simultaneous interpreting)
【Number of attendees】167