Women in Japan 2016: Realities, Challenges, and Opportunities

SAGE members Julia Sasanuma, Erin Blank and Utana Kishino (Grade 12 Students) talk about their experience organizing the Women in Japan Conference at ASIJ.

On March 8th, International Women’s Day, the ASIJ High School’s Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE) hosted a conference titled Women in Japan 2016: Realities, Challenges, and Opportunities.

For the past two-and-a-half years, SAGE has been raising money for the Asian University for Women while holding discussions about gender inequality issues all over the world. This year, in hopes of further understanding the inequality that women face in Japan, students in SAGE decided to organize a conference for students from ASIJ and numerous international schools in Kanto, as well as Japanese high schools and colleges.


Akie Abe, First Lady of Japan, at ASIJ

The conference was student-organized and student-run, and planning it was not an easy task. As full-time students who participate in a variety of afterschool activities, organizing this conference became an overwhelming responsibility. We had no experience with organizing such a huge event, so we encountered many challenges throughout the process—our first being: who was going to speak at our conference? We wanted to make sure that we invited a variety of speakers from different fields such as business, arts, science and education. This was our main priority because doing so allowed for us to have a holistic understanding of the problems that women in Japan face. After sending our initial invitations, receiving rejections was the hardest part. Although we were rejected by the majority of the initial people we invited, we were able to find ten accomplished speakers for our conference. These speakers came from different backgrounds, occupations and fields. We were also lucky enough to have Mrs. Akie Abe as our keynote speaker.

Speakers also included Sachin Shah (Executive Vice President for MetLife and ASIJ Parent), Kumi Sato (President and CEO of COSMO and Class of 1977 Alumna) and Mariko Bando (President of Showa Women’s University). Additional speakers included Miki Saito (Class of 2005), Renge Jibu, Kazue Kurihara, Asako Osaki and Machiko Osawa. Each speaker engaged students with their perspective on the most pressing social, political and economic issues confronting women in Japan, ending the conference with a panel discussion on these realities, moderated by Kami Fukuda (Class of 1984).

The difficulties of planning such a huge event did not simply end at finding speakers. We had to think about things we didn’t expect to: providing food at the event, training students to be tour guides and assistants for the speakers and participants, making programs, designing original logos, setting up a web page, inviting an audience, and publicizing the event. All of our club members worked together and made committees, delegating responsibilities in order to get things done on time.

We wanted to make the conference very interactive and provide students with a platform to share issues that inspire and captivate them. Groups and individuals participated in Student Share and the topics explored included Japanese schoolgirl culture and the negative consequences of the tipping culture in the service industry. One group made a documentary depicting the status of women in Japan. (view trailer)


The conference turned out to be a huge success with over 420 attendees. All sessions sparked discussions amongst the participants and overall it was a fantastic learning experience for parents, students and teachers—and of course for all of the members of SAGE. (Julia Sasanuma, Erin Blank and Utana Kishino, Grade 12)

For more information on SAGE and Women in Japan 2016, please visit their website.