JCIE brought a delegation of six Japanese women leaders to Washington DC to participate in a weeklong series of activities to explore issues related to US-Japan relations and women’s empowerment. The multi-party delegation was organized as part of JCIE’s US-Japan Women Leaders Dialogue (2017– ), co-chaired by Hon. Seiko Noda (former Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, former Minister of Women’s Empowerment, Minister of State for Gender Equality, among other posts) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). The delegation was led by Ms. Noda and included three other women legislators and two business leaders. During their stay, the delegation met with leaders and policy experts in government, industry, academia, and other sectors.
Below is a list of their activities on each day during the visit. JCIE will produce a separate report on the Women in STEM roundtable held on Capitol Hill on September 14.
Upon arriving in Washington DC, they were first briefed by JCIE staff on the week’s plans and then enjoyed a meeting with Hirotsugu Mochizuki, bureau chief for Asahi Shimbun‘s Washington Bureau, who offered an overview of current US societal and economic challenges and their implications for US domestic politics. That evening, they were then invited for a briefing and dinner at the residence of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States Koji Tomita.
The second day began with a meeting at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) with President and CEO Damon Wilson. The discussion focused on how US organizations like NED address the issues of inclusion and equity, women’s empowerment, and political participation of underrepresented populations in the context of human rights and democracy; the role of politics to meet these challenges, and unique perspectives that women political leaders bring to the table. That was followed by a lunch meeting with American and Japanese women business leaders, co-hosted by Intel. Participants discussed the shared challenges between women business leaders in both countries, and how we can work together to promote greater gender equity in digital technology and in other STEM-related fields.
Rachel Vogelstein, senior advisor at the White House Gender Policy Council, met with the group next, sharing how the Council is working to address issues such as improving the quality of women’s economic participation, access to childcare and family leave, the need to close the digital gender gap, providing greater access to jobs in green and blue industries, addressing gender-based violence and online abuse and harassment, and ensuring reproductive rights.
From there, the group headed to meet with Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), co-chair of the US-Japan Caucus, to hear his thoughts on US-Japan relations and his expectations for the impact of the upcoming election on Asia Pacific regional concerns. They then headed to the State Department, where participants engaged in a lively and substantive discussion with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kin Moy and others from the Bureau for East Asia and Pacific Affairs on the recent developments in the US policy on China and the Indo-Pacific, their assessment of the recent US-Japan-ROK Summit, future steps in US-Japan cooperation, and more.
And capping off the day was a dinner with leading experts on US-Japan relations, Sheila Smith (Council on Foreign Relations), Shihoko Goto (Wilson Center), Nicholas Szechenyi (Center for Strategic and International Studies), and Adam Liff (Georgetown University).
The third day began with a briefing by Alex Brideau and Tinatin Japaridze of the Eurasia Group on the outlook and impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, issues surrounding cybersecurity, the impact of the upcoming elections, and the gender gap in security and info-security. It was a lively discussion that saw the political and business leaders equally engaged and inquisitive.
The delegation then headed to Georgetown for a meeting with Ambassador Melanne Verveer, head of the Georgetown Institute Women, Peace and Security Program (GIPWPS). Amb. Verveer noted with pleasure that Japan had just named a woman as its new foreign minister, and shared that she has worked with Minister Kamikawa previously. The discussions, which included a number of Georgetown U. graduate students, touched on a number of issues related to women, peace and security, and particular focus was given to the important role of women in post-disaster relief and reconstruction. A clear takeaway from the meeting was that there is a strong correlation between the wellbeing of a country’s women and the stability and prosperity of that nation.
And the final meeting of the day was a session with USTR Katherine Tai and her team. Ambassador Tai shared her experiences and insights on the latest issues in the trade arena, the uncertainties in the world caused by the COVID pandemic, the rise of China, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and other factors. Among the topics covered in the broad-ranging discussions was the upcoming APEC meetings in Seattle, Washington, and the fact inclusivity is a key theme this year—referring to a focus on workers, on indigenous communities, and on women. Ambassador Tai noted that the US-Japan partnership today is strong and forward-looking.
On Day 4, the group had a breakfast meeting with a bipartisan trio of Congresswomen, enjoying an off-the-record discussion on pressing issues within each country and surrounding US-Japan relations, as well as issues related to increasing women’s participation in politics in the two countries. Participants on the US side included the co-chair of the US-Japan Women Leaders Dialogue, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), along with Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV) and Rep. Jill Tokuda (D-HI).
They then spoke with Susannah Welford, CEO & founder of the nonprofit organization Running Start to hear how she and her colleagues are working to train young women for political office.
One of the main events of the week was the US-Japan Capitol Hill Roundtable on Women in STEM, which invited more than 40 leaders (primarily women) from STEM fields, government, business, NGOs, media, academia, and philanthropy to discuss ways to promote greater participation by women in the critical areas of STEM, targeting the K-12 educational level, university levels, and post-collegiate career paths. A report on the conference will be forthcoming.
That evening, Ambassador Kurt Tong, Managing Partner and Executive Committee Member of The Asia Group (TAG), spoke briefly with the group on geopolitical trends in the Indo-Pacific and the impact of the Trilateral Leaders’ Summit. That was followed by a reception, co-hosted by JCIE and TAG that brought together Roundtable participants and other members of the US-Japan community in Washington DC.
The final day of our delegation’s visit began with a discussion with Ilene Gutman, deputy director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) on the importance of supporting and recognizing the contributions of women in the arts. The group then headed to the museum, where they donned hardhats to tour the site, which is currently undergoing a major renovation. Director Susan Sterling explained the building’s history and the ambitious renovation, giving the group a sneak peek at one of the amazing galleries that await visitors.
We then headed to the suburbs for a visit to the Great Falls Elementary School to see their unique and impressive Japanese Immersion Program, which also includes STEM classes taught in Japanese. After a quick visit and breath of fresh air at the actual Great Falls, it was back to the city for a final dinner meeting with Japanese business leaders based in Washington DC to discuss their views on US-Japan trade and economic issues.
This program is funded through generous grants from the United States Embassy in Tokyo, the MRA Foundation, and the Toshiba International Foundation.