May 5, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Japan’s excellent and accessible higher education system is highly regarded. Now, the country’s female leaders are stepping up to urge the nation to strengthen its support for the empowerment of women in other Asian countries which lag in the area of gender equity, according to a recent report from The Japan Times. Here’s a closer look at the movement, along with why closing the gender gap matters so much.        

A Call for Shared Responsibility

Speaking at the 8th annual Asian University for Women (AUW) fundraiser in Bangladesh earlier this spring, Kathy Matsui, vice chair and chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs Japan Co., urged the country to come together toward to promote educational opportunities for women throughout the region.

Matsui pointed out that while AUW currently has no students from Japan, many Japanese companies sponsor the college and therefore play a role in its success. She suggested that Japan could make an even greater contribution to the effort if more individuals and organizations would offer their support.

Matsui also pointed out that Japan would be returning a favor, recalling the country’s own development struggles and the bolstering role played by the region’s other nations toward its current global positioning. Her conclusion? “Japan shouldn’t turn its back now.”

Why Women Matter

Matsui described female education as a “silver bullet” to solving many of the globe’s challenges, such as in the area of malnutrition and poverty, where women are more likely to share their knowledge directly with other members of the community.

Former Japanese model and race car driver Keiko Ihara echoed Matsui’s enthusiasm saying, “I was blessed with so many opportunities to choose from and a chance to be socially active. Many women (in other countries) with talent and enthusiasm for learning are deprived of those opportunities and it’s a huge loss for their own countries and the entire Asian region.”

Ihara did note, however, that there is still work to be done in the Japanese workforce to promote gender equality -- especially given Japan’s 118th place ranking for economic participation and opportunity by the World Economic Forum. She said, “I think it’s essential that all Asian countries work together to invest in human resources development to ensure growth and stability in Asia.”


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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