Tokyo needs to make use of the full potential of our women

Creating future role models

Tokyo supports venture firms founded by women


MARCH 2022 Illuminating Voices / Text by Governor Yuriko Koike

With over 14 million residents, Tokyo is one of the world’s most populous cities. In order to achieve a sustainable recovery — as our continually evolving society emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic — Tokyo needs to make use of the full potential of our women, who make up half of the population. We need to create a society where women can freely choose the lifestyles and workstyles they wish.

Since being elected governor in 2016, I have kept this goal in mind and have been working earnestly to help create a social environment where women can take active roles at work, realise their individual value, and put their abilities to use — at any stage of their lives.

In recent years, more women have been starting their own businesses. However, women still make up only about a quarter of the entrepreneurs in Japan. Compared with their male counterparts, female entrepreneurs are more likely to lack experience in managing and scaling up a business, and they may face other challenges, such as fewer people in their networks with whom they can share their concerns about, for example, balancing work with childcare or nursing care.

So, in 2017, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) started the Acceleration Program in Tokyo for Women (APT Women), an initiative to assist female entrepreneurs. The programme is designed for women who intend to expand their business globally or those who wish to use their business to help solve social problems — in other words, it is for those who will go on to become role models. Women on the programme are trained over a three-month period through lectures, workshops, and individual mentoring.

APT Women also supports women who plan to start their own businesses. The programme provides them with the knowledge they need and helps them build a network that allows them to discuss challenges they are facing with other female entrepreneurs. These women are given one-on-one mentoring, attend group lectures about skills such as fundraising and presentation techniques, have exchanges with female entrepreneurs overseas, and can take advantage of a number of other services.

To date, we have supported a total of 160 new entrepreneurs and have steadily built up a track record of success. For example, one woman — whose company provides a platform for agricultural producers to sell their crops directly to consumers — went through the programme, then expanded her business by forming an alliance with a large corporation. Her company has been featured extensively in the media.
Another company I’d like to highlight provides hands-on career support to female millennials by offering lessons and coaching opportunities in the area of digital creative skills. Since taking part in APT Women, the firm has successfully raised ¥440 million (about €3.5 million) in funding.

The TMG will continue to actively promote a wide range of programmes supporting women in entrepreneurship and other fields. We will use our expertise with the aim of promoting greater economic and social development in Tokyo and throughout Japan.

About 100 years ago, Goto Shinpei, the seventh mayor of Tokyo, made a statement that emphasised the importance of human resource development, saying, “First, people; second, people; third, people.” Especially in a country like Japan with few natural resources, each person in society is of the greatest value.

In a diverse society, those with different perspectives will help to discover new solutions and opportunities that we were not aware of before. I sincerely hope that many more women will choose to establish new businesses so our society can benefit from their unique perspectives. •