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Tokyo Games will push Olympic corporate sponsors to set gender diversity goals

April 27, 2021, 1:01 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The DOJ opens a probe into Louisville policing, Franklin Templeton has a plan to improve remote work, and Tokyo Olympic organizers now see the Games as a tool for change. Have a lovely Tuesday.

– Gender at the Games. The Tokyo Olympic Games seem to have entered a brand new era.

Earlier this year, planning for the Tokyo Olympics had turned into a sexist gaffe-fest, kicked off by Yoshiro Mori, then-head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizing committee, who said that meetings with too many women drag on because women talk too much. Mori resigned several days later, calling it “pathetic” that one “brief remark” had led to his ouster.

In February, a selection panel named Seiko Hashimoto, Japan’s minister for gender equity and a seven-time Olympian, as Mori’s successor. Since she took over, the organizing committee has established a gender equality team headed by Mikako Kotani, Japan’s first female Olympic flag-bearer, and added 12 women to the committee’s executive board, raising its female representation above Hashimoto’s goal of 40%.

Now Kotani says that the Tokyo committee will ask corporate sponsors of the postponed 2020 Games, which start on July 23, to set their own equality and inclusion targets. In an interview with Bloomberg, Kotani didn’t name names, but the companies behind the upcoming Olympics include some of Japan’s biggest firms, like Toyota, Nomura Holdings, Fujitsu, NEC Corp., and Canon.

On the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index, released in March, Japan ranked 120th out of 156 countries. Women in Japan account for 8.4% of board members at listed companies and 14.7% of senior and managerial positions. (In the U.S., which ranks No. 30, those numbers are 26.1% and 42%, respectively.)

“Our goal is not to restore the reputation of the organizing committee,” Kotani said in an interview. “We want to straighten up ourselves and put out there the right message to the world as we are under the spotlight.”

Using the world’s largest sports stage as a way to press for more gender diversity at Japan’s biggest companies represents a wholly new tone for the Tokyo Games after its earlier debacle. It’s encouraging that the long-awaited Olympics may be an opportunity to change Japan’s misogynistic culture rather than reinforce it.

Claire Zillman

Editor’s note: Fortune on Monday launched a new platform, Fortune Education, that’s here to help you prepare for the new world of work. Our team of experienced editors will rank, rate, and recommend the right solutions for you and your career. First up is our new ranking of best online MBA programs, as well as must-reads for anyone considering an MBA. You can explore the whole site here.

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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