Diversity & Inclusion Event "Let's think about diversity -Turning various differences into multiple values-" event report

Panasonic Center Tokyo has continuously provided many opportunities to think about diversity, and developed activities to promote the concept of Diversity & Inclusion. In this COVID-19 crisis, where offline activities are difficult to hold, Panasonic Center Tokyo held an online event, “Let’s think about diversity~Turning various differences into multiple values~” on July 3rd, 2020.
We would like to introduce this event as a chance to think and understand about D&I.

Part 1

In part 1, four guests talked about diversity based on their experiences.

Although the differences are invisible, there are LGBTQ people around you.

Shiho Shimoyamada, female soccer player for Sfida Setagaya F.C.
Last February, she became the first Japanese athlete to make public that she has a same-sex partner.

It was in junior high when I first worried about my sexuality. Many of my friends were dating with boys but I wasn’t really interested and this made me feel confused. In high school, I belonged to a soccer team. It was a girls‘ school, so there was an atmosphere to accept love between girls. When I was starting to feel comfortable about my sexuality, an incident occurred. A female couple in the team was urged to break up by the manager. This incident became quickly known to everyone in the team. Because I knew that I didn't completely identify myself as a woman, I became afraid to tell about my sexuality.
There was another shocking incident when I was in university. It was when I was talking with one of my seniors about love between females. She said to me with a laugh, "Female players who like women are confusing love with admiration. It’s not normal." At this moment, I thought that I should never reveal my sexuality while this senior was in the same team. LGBTQ is an invisible difference, so many people think that there are no LGBTQ people around them. Therefore, people say hurtful words unknowingly, which hurts us a lot of times.
Since coming out in last spring, I feel that I have found a place where I can be myself. Such a place gives me absolute peace of mind and I can perform more stably. Until recently, there were no athletes in Japan to come out as an LGBTQ. I'd like to share my experiences and change the society to create a safe and comfortable place for all.

"I don't have my leg?" I couldn’t understand at all.

Sayaka Murakami. She had her right leg amputated and is using an artificial leg.
After getting married and giving birth, she is now active as a JPA-certified athlete.

11 years ago, I lost my right leg in an accident. That day, I was not feeling well. I fainted from anemia on the platform, and unfortunately, I was run over by a train. I woke up in a hospital bed, and was told by a doctor that they had amputated my leg and it had been unavoidable to save my life. They also told me that I would be able to walk if I used an artificial leg. "I don't have a leg? An artificial leg?" I couldn't understand what was happening to me at all.
But I felt a terrible pain which made me realize that it was not a dream. It took three days for me to see my leg.
Of course, I couldn't move on quickly. I felt as if I was labeled as a disabled person from that day, but at the same time, I realized that I had discriminated between non-disabled and disabled people somewhere in my heart. Gradually, I realized that maybe there is something that only I can do, because I can understand both what non-disabled people and disabled people think. Thinking in this way helped me to move on little by little.

Sayaka Murakami is also appearing on Panasonic's Beautiful JAPAN project

In 2011, I joined an amputees' sports club "Startline Tokyo" to seek friends with artificial legs. When I first visited the club, I was convinced that we can actually run on artificial legs. I thought I might be able to exercise here and smile with my teammates, which really encouraged me.
Currently, I am aiming the Paralympic Games in 2021. It has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and considering that I have a child, I am anxious if I can continue my career until 2021. At the same time, I really want to know what the world looks like from the start point and jumping pit in the Paralympics Games, so I'll continue training as long as possible.

Coming out as a manager, "I'll start working as a woman from tomorrow"

Rin Okabe, head of the Corporate Planning Department at Dentsu East Japan Inc.
Offers information on transgender issues from an office worker's viewpoint.

When I was around 50 and a typical middle-level manager, I sent a company-wide email, including all board members, to come out as a trans woman. It was at 5:31 on Friday. I clicked the send button and dashed for the door as if to run way, thinking "I won't be able to go back, I won't go back."
Looking back, I think I had lived my life with general satisfaction. At the same time, I had a vague sense of guilt throughout my life. "Why was I born as a male?" This is the question I always had. I had envy and a complex about women. I always had a girlfriend to project myself onto her as if to comfort myself.
For the first time, in my mid-40s, I visited a gay bar in Shinjuku. What I saw there, were people being honest with their minorities and enjoying their lives. At that moment, I felt the feeling I had hidden in the back of my mind gradually emerging. "I want to be more honest with myself in my life!" After that, I tried cross-dressing. I also studied make-up and injected female hormones. However, I felt my colleagues being confused as they saw my appearance change gradually. Back then, I was the head of the General Affairs Department and felt that I shouldn't cause other staff members to worry or harbor doubts about me. So I decided to come out and live as a woman.
Reactions towards diversity have changed a lot, but it is still difficult for minorities to come out freely. One driving force to change such society is that every minority declares that "I live here." I think it is my responsibility to achieve such society that mitigates pressure from prejudice and discrimination.

What should I do if my subordinates comes out as LGBTQ?

If they reveal it to you, it's a sign of trust. So first of all, thank them for coming out to you. Next, ask what they are concerned and bothered about specifically. The most important thing is to ask them how far you can disclose the information and what you cannot disclose. (By Rin Okabe)

Living as a LGBTQ person in a cooperate work environment

Laurence William Bates,
Managing Executive Officer and also Chief Risk Officer and Chief Compliance Officer for Panasonic Corporation.

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut in the US. Growing up as a gay person in an environment where I did not even really know what that meant in those days, I focused my efforts only on my academic achievements to deny thinking about really who I was and what I was looking for.
I started my career as a lawyer in America, and later moved to China. While living in China, I met the person who would be my husband in the future. I came to Japan in the 1980s. My company, GE at the time, was offering some healthcare benefits for same sex partners. It was a big opportunity for me, but at the same time, I had to come out that I have a partner who is a man. Another turning event for me was when I decided to adopt two children. It was a no-turning back point.
I've learnt two great leadership lessons living as an LGBTQ person in a cooperate work environment. The first lesson is that coming out is a constant process. It's not just done when one comes out to a particular person or audience. Lesson number two is that we can be much more authentic in our roles as leaders or whatever we are doing in our organizations if we are believable to the people around us. And if they understand fully who we are, we can be passionate and truthful about what we believe in.
Over the past 10 years, Panasonic has transformed greatly as a company, and I've been fortunate enough to be part of it. We have brought in people with diverse backgrounds at the board level. It is very important to recognize that diversity is necessary to transform the company.

What does "Q" in LGBTQ mean?

  • Lesbian: a woman who is sexually or romantically attracted to other women
  • Gay: a person whose sexual orientation is to persons of the same sex
  • Bisexual: a person who is sexually attracted by both men and women
  • Transgender: a person whose gender identity does not conform to that of which they were born with

The Q can stand for "questioning" -- as in still exploring one's sexuality -- or "queer," or sometimes both.

Part 2

In part 2, Shigeyoshi Suzuki, president of "Mushimegane no Kai" of the Pride House Tokyo consortium, moderated the panel discussion.

Shigeyoshi Suzuki, who is lovingly nicknamed Shige-sensei.
Elementary school teacher and openly gay, being open to colleagues, students, and their parents.

-Please tell me about the process until you accepted your own differences, or the moment of self-acceptance.

Shiho Shimoyamada: When I first revealed to my teammate during university, she said "It's obvious. You're too late to mention it." I thought for the first time that I should be myself.

Rin Okabe: Same as me. When my classmate, who know only my boyhood days, said, "Oh, you're Okabe. You've just changed your gender", it encouraged me to approve myself.

Shige-sensei: So it's important that people around you accept the way you are and the way you exist.

Sayaka Murakami: When I saw my prosthetist devoting himself to make my artificial leg, I came to think that I should be proud to be able to live with this cool artificial leg.
But after my child was born, I have a lot of concerns again. When my two years old child runs out into the street, I can't catch up. I feel sorry to put my child in such danger. But, no matter how badly I wish for it, my leg won't regrow, so I think that I should raise children in my own way.

Shige-sensei: So the process of self-acceptance continues not only when you had an accident, but afterwards as well.

Larry: US is thought to be much ahead of Japan. But in small towns, it isn't and being gay is thought as a sin. Japan does not have that problem. I think the next challenge is how to cooperate with others to accept yourself.

-What do you think is necessary to create workplaces and organizations where social minorities can work more comfortably?

Sayaka Murakami: It's very helpful when people ask me about when I have difficulties and what kind of help I need. We can all make mistakes, so things may not succeed at the first attempt. It's important that we discuss together to improve next time.

Larry: It is important for the company to message from the top that "Panasonic needs diversity, and we can become a better and stronger company with diversity." We will be able to bring in many different ideas from many different places to strengthen and transform the company as a whole.

-What is Pride House Tokyo?

Gon Matsunaka, representative of the Pride House Tokyo consortium.

Panasonic held this event in cooperation with Pride House Tokyo. Pride House Tokyo is a project that takes the opportunity of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to spread information related to LGBT people and other sexual minorities, as well as provide various events and programs related to diversity.