Global companies in the U.S. are turning their attention to Japanese companies run by women as suppliers of parts and materials. The environment surrounding Japanese managers is considered male-dominated, even more so than that of workers, and women have a narrow view of their shoulders.
In December 2021, the Japanese subsidiary of US IT giant Microsoft held an online business meeting for product procurement with several female executives. When Mayuko Horiuchi, president of Osaka-based plating company “Sensho”, introduced a new straw product, Microsoft purchased approximately 300 straws as gifts for its employees.
Another U.S. semiconductor giant, Intel, has set a goal of increasing its annual purchases from non-U.S. women-owned companies to $500 million (approximately 70 billion yen) by the end of 2025, and has selected Japan as a priority region for business negotiations.
Connecting Sensho, which has about 70 employees, and Microsoft is Wiconnect International, which is headquartered in the United States. The organization was established in 2009 to increase opportunities for women business owners, and a Japanese branch was established in 2018. It certifies companies in which 51% or more of the shares are held by women and which are managed by women. More than 15,000 companies worldwide are listed as supply chain players. About 170 major companies on the buying side become members of the NPO and contribute to its operating expenses. They can browse the list and hold business meetings. Business meetings for straws were also held through this system.
Japan has long had a problem with gender disparity in wages and other aspects of life. According to a 2022report by the World Economic Forum, Japan ranks 116th out of 146 countries in terms of gender equality in society. According to the same year’s Teikoku Databank survey, only 8.2% of domestic companies (1.19 million companies) have female presidents, up from 4.5% in 1990, but still a far cry from the government target of 30% women in leadership positions.
Driven by the establishment of the Japan branch of Wiconnect and other factors, well-known large U.S. companies are now focusing their attention on Japanese products. IBM USA believes that “doing business with new, diverse companies is the key to responding to changes in the environment,” and the company’s Japanese subsidiary purchased 5.6 billion yen worth of products from minority-owned companies annually in 2021.