The Tokyo Olympics has made a symbolic gesture toward gender equality by appointing 12 women to the body’s executive board, which will now have 19 women among its 45 members, or 42%.
To accommodate the new women, the size of the board was increased from 35 to 45. Several resignations on Tuesday also created more space.
The move was announced by CEO Toshiro Muto after an executive board meeting. The names of the new members were expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Seiko Hashimoto, the new president of the organising committee, prompted the changes. She took over last month after 83-year-old former president Yoshiro Mori was forced to resign after making derogatory comments about women. Essentially, he said they talk too much.
“Regarding the promotion of gender equality, we believe that it is necessary to work with a sense of speed and produce solid results in order to restore the trust in the organising committee,” Hashimoto said at the start of the board meeting.
Hashimoto, a former Olympic bronze-medal winner in speedskating, promised when she took over to increase female participation in the body’s executive board. It had stood at about 20%. Muto also said the board will now have one female vice president among seven.
Japan ranks 121st out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s gender-equality ranking, and women are seldom found in leadership roles or in the boardroom.
The move is unlikely to have long-term impact. The Tokyo Olympic organising committee employs about 3,500 people but will be dissolved after the postponed Olympics take place.
Hashimoto also said on Wednesday that a decision will be taken on whether overseas spectators will be able to attend the Olympics and Paralympic Games at the end of the month, with a final decision hoped to be reached by 25 March, by the time of the Olympic torch relay.
“Regarding mutant strains [of coronavirus] that’s something we need to thoroughly think of. As long as there is anxiety we need to make sure safety and security is going to be maintained,” said Hashimoto. “It’s not about whether it’s difficult or not [to have overseas spectators], it’s whether it would link to the safety and security of the Games for Japanese citizens. That is the priority.”
The postponed Olympics are to open on 23 July, followed by the Paralympics on 24 August.