Table Speech

From Hidden Virtue to Public Interest

August 31, 2016

Ms. Atsuko Toyama
President, The Toyota Foundation

 Let me talk about “grant-making foundations” which constitute the non-profit sector. Today, there are nearly 60,000 NPOs, of which about 3,000 entities provide grants to research, scholarships and financial assistance to NPO activities.

 Looking back on the history of social contribution in Japan, I think the notion to “accumulate virtues” and “hidden virtue” originating in the Confucian teaching underlay various activities. Affluent merchants of the Edo period tried to lead a modest and frugal life, while they spent accumulated wealth on infrastructure and assisting the needy without being noticed. The samurai class which dominated the social strata then regarded money and profits would demoralize people. The merchants, placed at the bottom of the strata, assumed economic power. By doing good deeds, the merchants tried to improve their ethical standard and promote the good side of commercial activities, which later propelled modernization of commerce and industry in Meiji Japan. The 1896 Civil Code first stipulated the legal framework for public entities. We must not forget that many emerging businessmen such as Zenjiro Yasuda and Eiichi Shibusawa gave a big impact both to our economy and society.

 When Japan got on the path towards economic growth in the post-War period, not a few business leaders claimed, in their corporate philosophy, to contribute to the international society through active social engagement activities. For example, the founder of Panasonic Mr. Konosuke Matsushita and the founder of Toyota Group Mr. Sakichi Toyoda clarified that companies should contribute to the society and work to promote industrial development of the country.

 The Toyota Foundation is a corporate foundation established by Toyota Motors in 1974. The then president Mr. Eiji Toyoda initiated this mega foundation worth 10 billion yen and advocated for “hidden virtue.” Today, the Foundation implements various activities, not directly related to the automobile sector, and provides grants to research projects both in Japan and in South East Asian countries.

 Numerous corporate foundations were established in Japan from the late 1980s to the 1990s. After that, an increasing number of companies established an in-house CSR department. I think the traditional value of “hidden virtue” started to fade away around this time.

 The Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake made us realize the significant impact made by volunteer groups. The NPO law was enacted in 1998 to systematize wide-ranging public interest activities of citizens. It was a major turning point for the non-profit sector in Japan.

 The Nippon Foundation is the largest grant-making foundation in Japan, providing grants worth 22 billion yen a year. It is quite disappointing that many foundations are suffering from the recent super-low interest rates that give a negative impact on their budget and activities.

 There are nearly 90,000 grant-making foundations in the USA, majority of which are not corporate foundations but based on individual donations. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest, providing an enormous sum of 400 billion yen as grants. Many IT-business related foundations are being established these days. The top 20 foundations in the USA have granted 37 times more than those in Japan.

 Numerous challenging issues related to declining birth rate and aging society await us. It is impossible to address all of them by public-funded initiatives. I am convinced that “joint public-private ventures” and non-profit entities can play an instrumental role in securing a safe life for all. Companies and individuals should go beyond the ideal of “hidden virtue” and get engaged in tasks that promote “public good” to achieve a mature society.

Women’s Universities in the 21st Century

August 31, 2016

Ms. Mariko Bando
Chairman of the Board / President, Showa Women’s University

 In Japan, the 18-year-old population keeps declining since 1992, while the number of universities keeps increasing. Private universities, therefore, are having difficulties in reaching their enrollment capacity. While large-scale private universities in the metropolitan areas attract sufficient number of students, small and mid-sized regional universities are struggling. Women’s universities are no exception, trying to identify their new raison d'être.

History of women’s universities
 Before the War, higher education in Japan aimed to foster males to become useful human resources for the country. Secondary education was thought to be enough to make girls a “dutiful wife and devoted mother”. Women’s English School, Tokyo Women’s Medical School and Japan Women’s University were established in the 1900s, but they were classified as technical colleges. Requests to provide higher education to girls were quite limited.

 In December 1945, the “Outline of Reformation in Female Education” stipulated to “establish new women’s universities,” followed by the Basic Act on Education enacted in 1947 which made public schools co-educational. Four women’s universities were accredited in 1948, and 2 national, 2 public and 11 private women’s universities were established in 1949.

 As the Japanese economy developed and the birth-rate declined, an increasing number of families started to give their daughters higher education. But enrollment to four-year universities still remained around 5% in 1965, with the majority of female students majoring in liberal arts, education and home economics. Only a few chose social and natural sciences. Japan entered the high economic growth period but the majority of female students chose to work for a few years after graduating from junior colleges and then got married to support their husbands who were expected to be hardworking “corporate warriors.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Law enacted in 1985 failed to make major change in this pattern. The Child-care Leave Law was enacted in 1991, which finally brought gradual changes to the working environment for women.

Women’s universities at present
 Today 46.5% female students advance to four-year universities and 8% to junior colleges. Students majoring in social sciences (25.6%) have come to outnumber liberal arts (22.3%), followed by education (9.8%) and home economics (5.8%). Health care (13.4%) is gaining popularity, including nursing studies, while engineering remains at the lowest with 1.9%.

 Such changes have affected women’s universities, and their numbers have decreased from 90 in the early 1990s to 78. Regional women’s junior colleges have either closed or merged into co-educational four-year universities.

 Many promising female high school students today tend to advance to coeducational universities. Female students focus on acquiring practical qualifications to become teachers, dieticians, pharmacists or clinical psychologists and many women’s universities have courses to respond to their needs. But for those who wish to get higher qualifications, they go to coeducational universities and major in law or medicine to become lawyers or physicians.

 Another trend is internationalization. Female students are hard-working and excel in languages. Showa Women’s University has established the Global Business Department and is planning to launch the International Department next year. Tsuda College will also establish the General Policy Department next year.

 I believe women’s universities still play an instrumental role in educating women to become leaders to facilitate socioeconomic development and to overcome various hardships they may encounter in the real society.