A key element of driving innovation in the Itochu Enex Group is its workforce with a rich diversity of viewpoints, sensitivities, intellects, career histories, values and capabilities. To develop, maintain and further grow this diversity, the Group is strengthening diversity initiatives, which will also help create a more robust and sustainable organization and corporate culture.
In June 2019, Motoyo Yamane was appointed as the Group’s ﬁrst female outside director.
She has worked as an NHK announcer for a variety of media and educational programs. In 2005, she became the first woman to be appointed as the head of the announcements office.
The following is an interview between Ms. Yamane and President Okada on the theme of Diversity.
Okada：Since I became president and CEO, I have been working hard to increase the number of female employees to support the success of women in the company. Our female staff is far smaller than in other industries. Today, we have approximately 120 female employees out of around 650. They make up nearly 20% of our total staff. I believe that we are ready for fair discussions.
Yamane：After I became an outside director, I visited some workplaces. I often saw female employees working actively and showcasing their skills.
Okada：Originally, there was no skill gap between men and women. I sometimes feel that women are very conscious of work. When you worked for the NHK(Japan's public broadcasting service) , you were the first female chief of the Announcers Bureau. I heard that you implemented reforms to broaden women’s career paths.
Yamane：When I joined the NHK, there was a system under which male announcers could be assigned to stations outside Tokyo, while female announcers normally worked in Tokyo. When I became head of the bureau in 2005, I thought that a sense of unfairness would grow among the men if the women were concentrated in Tokyo. I introduced a system for women to work outside of Tokyo. It partially aimed to boost the motivation of male announcers by making the rule impartial.
Okada：Impartiality is very important in the context of work styles.
Yamane：What was more important for impartiality was giving women equal opportunities for development. At small provincial stations, they can realize the importance of having a wide-ranging perspective of the broadcasting business, supported by sales and many other staff, being conscious of the organization and their duties.
In addition, while reporting local people’s lifestyles and matters of everyday concern, they will discover what to do as professionals in broadcasting. That was a dramatic reform, but I thought it was absolutely essential to ensure that motivated women would work for a long time and continue to exert their strengths in the organization. My sense of crisis encouraged me to push through the reform.
Okada：That is a great story. There is another thing that we must discuss—it is wrong to regard women as the same as men and to argue that women should be like this, while men are like that. Some ingenuity is needed to achieve fairness among workers.
Yamane：The notion of fairness varies from person to person. There are so many people and so many ideas. It is not surprising that it differs between men and women.
Okada：It is what diversity is all about. I think that the company must pay attention to many different variations.
Yamane：What do you think about developing diverse personnel?
Okada：My focus is closer to creating an environment for personnel development. When it comes to staff development, I suppose that the process of developing someone has a two-way effect. I mean that trainers are influenced by trainees. It is very important.
Yamane：That is the essence of education. An educator who I respect once said that education is the reciprocal influencing of two lives. It means that no matter who educates whom in an organization, both sides influence each other and grow together. This phrase really stuck with me.
Okada：Mutual development with reciprocal influence will increase energy in the company. This accumulation of energy will help increase our corporate value. When women shine, so do men. When young staff grow, so do medium- and long-serving personnel. We will strive to achieve this in our company.
Being determined to amaze colleagues is vital to the creation of mutual resonance of energy in a company. With this mind, one will try something new to surprise others and involve those who show empathy. The energy will serve as a good stimulation. I hope that staff members in our Group will be open-minded and work freely to exert their potential. If anyone has a strange and funny skill, I hope they will show it off and showcase their originality.
Yamane：I see your brilliant leadership from the diversity in the Itochu Enex Group.
Okada：I simply think the window should be opened. Outside air should flow in and mix with the internal air. Of course, many different things come through an open window. That is important. Newborn babies put anything into their mouths. That nurtures their resistance and ability to live. The same goes for companies. They do not grow stronger in germ-free conditions. To change the company for the better, I will open the window and make its diversity and creativity as rich as in the outer world. That is my policy.
Yamane：When I think deeply about diversity, I understand that the basic principle is to value the dignity of every single person. It is important that employees, male or female, seriously consider why they work for Itochu Enex and what they should do and can do, and form a big goal or ambition. If they do, they will not have to compare themselves with others or have petty competitions. They can confidently make steady efforts towards their own goals. I hope Itochu Enex will provide young people with an environment and plenty of experiences that aid them with this discovery. Then, they will understand the real delight of working and feel that life is fun.
Okada：Instead of being manipulated by the buzzword of diversity, they should start by taking more interest in coworkers, understanding that they are different, and find them interesting and worthy of respect. I will listen to staff members. Receiving positive stimulation and influence from them, I will endeavor to build a workplace that allows everyone to showcase their strengths and be happy to work at Itochu Enex.