This series of video interviews provides excerpts from a conversation with Heather McLeish, Director, Financial Services Advisory, EY Japan, on women in the work force in Japan and what progress has been made under the government’s “Womenomics” program.

Her comments are in conjunction with the latest Women in Business Summit, organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan on February 28, 2019 to help promote the role of professional women in Japan.

Heather McLeish is Heather McLeish is a Director EY Advisory focusing on business development in the Financial Services Sector. Heather started her career in EY Japan by building the Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) practice in 2015 and was responsible for the overall management, development and market impact of this business.

Prior to working with Ernst & Young in Japan she worked in financial services and real estate focused firms in Asia, living in both Hong Kong and Tokyo. Heather has experience doing projects in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Vietnam, and Singapore.

Heather is American and began her career in venture capital in Silicon Valley. In early 2001 she moved to Japan and has been focused on building, launching and expanding small businesses.

Heather is an active member of the American Chamber of Commerce’s (ACCJ) Alternative Investments Committee, Executive Committee member of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan (BCCJ), a board member of Shine On Kids, a Japanese NPO helping children with long term illnesses and a frequent guest presenter on NHK’s ‘Cool Japan’ TV program.

Women in Japan – Many Barriers Remain <Set B>

Slide 1. What needs to be done in Japan to further promote the role of women at work?

In this clip, Heather notes that Japan still ranks 110th in the World Economic Forum’s latest report on the gender gap around the world. One problem, she says is that many senior executives believe that it is the job of women in their companies to help promote other women. In reality, it is the work of everyone, including male executives, to help women get ahead. In addition, there is still a viewpoint that women should retain the responsibility to take care of the family. In telling women that they should also work, you are actually adding to their burden. Outside caregivers are a potential solution, but many times this is opposed within traditional Japanese families.

Slide 2. Are there areas where Japan is ahead of other countries?

In this clip, Heather notes that one area where Japan is a leader in terms of helping women at work is in its 12 months of paternity leave that is available to working men. The problem, she says, is that only 2% of men take advantage of the program. One solution is for senior executive men to take extended leave to help set an example. In addition, there has been resistance in families to the idea of men taking care of children. That needs to be discussed with families to help create broader gender roles for both women and men.

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