Working Together For
Women's Empowerment.

On Thursday, August 28th, some members of WomEnpowered International (WE Int.) had the pleasure of joining the “Shu-katsu Harasumento (Job-hunting Harassment)” Seminar hosted by WITS Kabushiki Kaisha, a company heavily involved in children’s education founded in 2003.

The event was the first-ever to be hosted at WITS new Tokyo headquarter and WE Int. members were joined by other job-hunting students and representatives from several companies. WITS President and CEO, Masayuki Kitano opened the event by warmly welcoming everyone to their new office and briefly introducing his company.

Mr. Kitano’s speech was then followed by Ms. Moeka Ono, the night’s guest speaker and representative director of Japan Mental-Up Support Organization. Ms. Ono enlightened the audience on the overall recent trends regarding workplace harassment in Japan. Her affiliated institution holds seminars to prevent corporate harassment at the same time, promote workers’ productivity. Her presentation was very informative and engaging as she allowed us time to analyze situations she mediated in the past as a corporate harassment counselor. The Japanese mindset of “Iwanaku-temo wakaru” (Eng. You (must) understand without explicitly telling you) inevitably reduces the needed communication, and this lack of communication increases distrust between co-workers (e.g. Junior-Senior) which makes it easier for harassment to occur.

What I found really curious was that various harassment cases resulted from miscommunication or lack of communication. For instance, what used to be considered as a joke can easily be misconstrued as harassment or an innocent comment may be taken as harassment when there’s no rapport between the commenter and recipient.

However, because Power Harassment Prevention Act was ratified in May 2019 and will be enforced from April 2020, companies are expected to hold seminars preventing power harassment in the workplace from occurring.

Before the session closed, WE Int. members presented our organization and shared with the audience our members’ thoughts and experiences in Japanese job hunting. The presentation concluded that, as the labor market in Japan is becoming increasingly internationalized, Japanese companies and government must recognize and modify the structural barriers hindering international talents from participating in the mainstream “shu-katsu.” One was is a conscious information-sharing on how Japanese job-hunting works, and another way is to do away with some of the unsaid rules such as OGOB visits (a job applicant must visit one’s college seniors working at the company one is applying) and handwritten resume and personal statements (students fear that if the application documents are typed, the company may think they are “not serious”). The audience was very receptive to our presentation, saying they would be very eager to support the activities of WE Int.



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On July 28, WomEnpowered International organized a workshop at the University of Tokyo in support of the #KuToo movement. #KuToo is a campaign aimed at challenging companies within Japan that require their female employees to work in heels. #KuToo nods to the worldwide #MeToo movement and also plays with the Japanese words for shoe (kutsu) and pain (kutsuu).

The movement began in February 2019, with an online petition started by Japanese actress and feminist writer Yumi Ishikawa. Ms. Ishikawa started the petition after working part-time at a funeral parlor and having to work the majority of her shift in heels. The petition --which asks the government to ban company rules that force women to wear heels-- has reached over 30,000 online signatures.

WE Int. members gathered at the University of Tokyo to have roundtable discussions on what we, as students, have to contribute to this imperative movement. What we came to realize: much of the social pressure that women in Japan face when it comes to wearing heels starts not at work, but when they begin looking for work, as students.

Job hunting in Japan has very specific --unwritten but almost universally followed-- rules of conduct. Women are recommended to tie their hair back and wear dark skirt suits, nude stockings and black pumps with a heel of 3-5 cm. Then, for some women, these job-hunting heels turn into company-required heels when they are hired.

Ms. Ishikawa says that events like the event held at the University of Tokyo are crucial for changing gendered norms in Japan. “The norm of women having to wear heels begins with job hunting,” says Ms. Ishikawa. “Until this point, females are given the choice of whether or not to wear heels.”

Here is WomEnpowered International’s official declaration of support from the #KuToo movement:


The #KuToo movement not only addresses women’s restricted autonomy when it comes to clothing, but also the structural obstacles they face when participating in the labor force. Wearing heels causes pain for many women, which effectively impedes them from realizing their full potential in job hunting and in the workplace. Therefore, WE Int.'s support for the #KuToo movement is both an expression of solidarity with individual women facing this issue and an urge to remove all existing barriers from society that obstruct women's empowerment.


Sign the petition at:厚生労働省-kutoo-職場でのヒール-パンプスの強制をなくしたい/sign




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8月5日、WE Int.(ウィー・イント)は東京大学本郷キャンパス御殿下記念館にて、「Empower Women Through Fitness」と題した、女性限定のフィットネスイベントを開催しました。






#BeWomEnpowered #EmpoweringWomenThroughFitness #WomensEmpowerment #SheInspires #TomoOkabe #SpiceUpFitness

Article Contributed by: Yiting Fei

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