By Rachel Gobep
Mieko Nakabayashi served in the Japanese House of Representatives from 2009-2012, but when she campaigned, it was hard for her to change people’s perceptions of women being involved in politics.
“They would tell me, ‘Politics are for boys’”, she said. “For me, it was very difficult to change women’s perception of themselves and to make them more aware of women’s issues and how politics can change it.”
Nakabayashi gave a lecture titled “Women in Politics: Challenges and Opportunities” at the DeBartolo Stadium Club on March 30.
During her time as a representative, Nakabayashi was the director of the Foreign Affairs and the Financial Affairs committee. She also worked for the Senate Budget Committee in the United States for 10 years.
Today, she is an associate professor and associate director for the Global Leadership Program at Waseda University.
Throughout her lecture, Nakabayashi spoke on the topics of women in politics, the gender gap and women’s issues in and out of the workplace.
“Women in politics is not a domestic issue, it is a global issue. In any country, women’s promotion in politics is a big subject to talk about,” Nakabayashi said.
Women’s participation in the political field is very low, she added.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, under 25 percent of women are represented in National Parliaments throughout the world.
“The United States is not doing that well in terms of international ranking, but is increasing women representation constantly, although at a very slow rate,” Nakabayashi said. “In Japan, unfortunately, the representation of women is not doing well. It is not constant, it goes up and down.”
When the Democratic Party of Japan took control of the government in 2009, women’s representation increased, but representation decreased substantially when the Liberal Democratic Party became the ruling party in 2012, she said.
Shizō Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, set up an initiative at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in 2014. He plans to have 30 percent of all senior leadership positions filled by women by 2020, Nakabayashi added.
Nakabayashi said that if women continue to stay home and take care of their children instead of being part of the workforce, they may never see all of the women’s issues that need addressed.
Paul Sracic, professor and chair of the Political Science Department, has known Nakabayashi for about seven years and has always wanted to bring her to Youngstown State University to speak to students.
“You don’t find many people with that kind of combination of experience and knowledge that she has. It was perfect to bring her here for Women’s History Month because she specializes in women in politics.”