If you make gender parity a hallmark of your agenda, disparaging and diminishing women probably isn't the best way to show you're serious about that work.
The president of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Committee finally resigned on Friday, stepping down after days of saying he would not. Yoshiro Mori made headlines earlier this month when he pushed back on the idea that the committee needed more women on its board, essentially saying they talk too much.
"On boards with a lot of women, the board meetings take so much time," Mori, 83, said in an online meeting, his comment reportedly with laughter. "Women have a strong sense of competition. If one person raises their hand, others probably think, I need to say something, too. That's why everyone speaks.
“You have to regulate speaking time to some extent. Or else we’ll never be able to finish.”
We're not sure what boards Mori has sat on (he was once Japan's prime minister), but in this country it's usually the exact opposite: Women have been conditioned to constantly question themselves, so in group settings they're reluctant to speak their mind and contribute, while the men talk to hear themselves talk. Or just steal the idea another colleague had and claim it as their own.
As if that wasn't enough, Mori intimated the seven women that are on the 35-member Olympic organizing board speak at a length acceptable to him because they "have experienced international arenas," "understand their place" and "are very useful."
How lovely for those women that he finds them "useful." We find him to be an ignorant dinosaur.
Anyway, Mori got a lot of backlash for his tone-deaf statement, especially since the International Olympic Committee has made an effort to increase the number of women in its ranks in recent years. He apologized, but that didn't do much to dampen the calls for him to step down.
In 2017, the IOC announced the slate of events that would be contested at the since-postponed 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, which as of now are still expected to happen this year.
The reshuffling — things like adding mixed relays in swimming and track and field, mixed doubles in table tennis — was done with the goal of eventually getting to a 50-50 gender split of athletes at the Olympics. At the 2016 Games in Rio, 45.6 percent of the competitors were female, a record high. With the changes, it's expected that close to 49 percent of athletes in Tokyo will be women.
When the comments were made public, backlash was swift, and included tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who was born in the country and still plays for Japan in international events even though she's lived in the United States for years and has citizenship here.
Osaka said Mori's comment was "really uninformed and a bit ignorant," though she stopped short of calling for him to resign.
Osaka was far from alone in her criticism of Mori, however: Female politicians in Japan dressed in white this week as a symbolic protest, volunteers for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games have resigned, and the governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, said she would boycott a key meeting scheduled for next week that Mori was supposed to take part in along with IOC president Thomas Bach.
Koike is the first female governor in Tokyo's history, a country that ranks as one of the worst on the planet when it comes to the gender gap: Only 10 percent of its lawmakers in the Lower House are women, and as of 2019, just over 5 percent of executives at all companies were women. In 2003, Japan set a goal of having that number at 20 percent by 2020, and clearly fell way short.
Sounds familiar ... in 2003, the NFL put the Rooney Rule in place to increase the number of non-white head coaches in the league and it continues to fall way short.
While it was great to see Osaka and others speak out, as well as volunteers drawing a line, we suspect the thing that finally led to Mori's resignation was money: Akio Toyoda, the president of auto maker Toyota, a major partner for the Tokyo Games, said on Wednesday, "We are disappointed by the recent comments from [Mori], which are contrary to the values that Toyota respects and supports."
He added that the company was involved in the Games because it believes in “the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which through sports aim to create a peaceful and an inclusive society without discrimination in which anyone can participate."
Other sponsors, including Asahi Holdings, a beer company, and Eneos, an oil and metals company, were also highly critical, with an Eneos executive saying it "deplored" the remarks.
Given the price tag for the Tokyo Games has quadrupled from the initial bid amount of $7.4 billion to a ridiculous $29 billion when the $3 billion COVID-induced postponement cost is added in, the last thing Mori and the committee should do is alienate the sponsors that might help defray some of those costs.
Next time you want to speak up with some foolishness, Mr. Mori — though it won't be with this Olympic organizing committee — may we remind you that men who say too much could be found to be less than useful.
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