Leaders share how D&I can shape Tokyo, London

Nov. 16, 2018

On the 54th anniversary of the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, October 10, the BCCJ held an exclusive event at the British Embassy in Tokyo featuring guest speakers Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo, and Dame Inga Beale, chief executive officer of Lloyd’s of London, a leading insurance market providing specialist insurance services to businesses in more than 200 countries and territories.

The leaders shared how Tokyo and London, by embracing diversity and inclusion (D&I), can tackle demographic challenges and foster innovation.

Koike began by outlining her goal to create a Tokyo that is safe, diverse and smart. All residents should “feel secure and at ease” and be able to “lead fulfilling and active lives” in a city that is open to the world. Fundamental, therefore, is the development of work environments that are suitable for everyone, she explained.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) is promoting telework to enable those caring for children or elderly relatives, for example, to work remotely. As studies show that telework was effective in easing congestion during London 2012, Koike plans to encourage its uptake by firms in the lead up to and beyond Tokyo 2020.

The TMG’s Jiza Biz programme, meanwhile, encourages staggered clock-in times to accommodate staff who require flexibility in their work schedules. 

Such initiatives help facilitate inclusive work environments because people at various life stages can continue to work or return to work, but D&I experts have suggested that changing hearts and minds about work is fundamental to their success.

Japan is notorious for long working hours and the prioritisation of presenteeism over productivity. Koike opined that efficiency, instead, should be valued, stating that “people who can complete tasks in short periods of time should be seen as skilled workers.”

“We must prioritise our life as well as work,” she said. “We talk about work-life balance, but I prefer to call it life-work balance, to emphasise the importance of leading a fulfilling life.”

The TMG is also doing targeted work that “focuses on people as a source of the city’s vitality.”

The TMG has reduced the number of children on waiting lists for day care by 3,100 since April 2018 to help ensure women do not have to choose between career and family. It is also promoting the adoption of more women in decision-making positions and has developed programmes to support female entrepreneurs to establish or expand venture companies.

Pointing out that we are now in an era when Japanese people born in 2007 are expected to live until age 107, Koike said leisure, education and work opportunities for residents aged 65 and over are essential to create a city that enriches the lives of older people and supports Japan’s sustainable economic growth.

The TMG is also offering seminars to support SMEs that seek to hire people with disabilities and is working with firms to improve working conditions for staff with disabilities. 

Koike noted that Japan has learned a lot from the UK since the first Briton, William Adams, landed on Japanese shores in 1600. Similarly, Tokyo and London, as friendship cities, have developed close ties and continue to deepen collaboration, particularly in finance, urban development and the delivery of Tokyo 2020.

In closing, she said that Tokyo’s Paralympic Games presents an opportunity to create an inclusive society, which would be “the true legacy” of Tokyo 2020.

British Ambassador to Japan Paul Madden CMG shared that every ticket for the London 2012 Paralympic Games was sold, and 70% of British adults surveyed afterwards said the Paralympics had positively shaped their view on disability.

“It was a real watershed for British society,” he said, adding that although many achievements have been made in D&I, more needs to be done. “Creating a society where people can maximise their talent is important to us,” he said.

For Beale, the first female CEO of Lloyd’s Japan in its 330-year history, D&I is both a personal and professional issue. Starting out in the London market in 1982, female staff conducting business on the trading floor was still a relatively new concept; the first woman was permitted to do so in 1973.

“As a young woman with very few women role models, I didn’t think it was possible to have a senior position [in the sector] let alone be CEO,” she told the audience.

Eager to be accepted, she said she “took on male behaviour” that didn’t really suit her, but a round-the-world trip helped her realise that it is important to acknowledge and embrace gender differences. She met women of many cultures who inspired her, in business and life.

“I learned how to value people for who they are, and how much more fun and interesting work can be when you are surrounded by different people,” she said.

Now, as a role model, Beale is sharing her story to support other women on their career journeys and using her experiences to help secure Lloyd’s future.

Beale explained that Lloyd’s has always been a pioneer, having insured the first cars and airplanes. Today, it is leading in the insurance of cyber systems and the sharing economy. Her work involves initiating new technology and systems, helping the firm “move from an analogue to data-driven world.”

Important too, she said, is extending Lloyd’s access to developing countries across the world where insurance is not well known. According to Beale, success in this area depends on a diverse workforce that can “understand the unique demands and needs of customers living in those communities, cities and countries.” Moreover, embracing D&I has proven to be an important aspect of attracting and retaining talent at the firm, she said.

As part of Lloyd’s Dive In initiative—an annual festival for D&I in insurance—Beale is encouraging people to “start conversations, ask questions and learn about things from other people’s point of view.”

Describing it as the “only way we are going to build truly inclusive workplaces and communities,” she said now feels like an exciting time as businesses put greater efforts into realising D&I. 


Produced by Sterling Content for the BCCJ