Japanese Firm With All-Male Board Says Sorry for Failing on Diversity

After the resignation of Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori put the spotlight back onto gender politics in Japan’s circles of power, one software developer in the country has issued an apology for the composition of its board.

“We would like to apologize for failing to make a diverse workplace -- by which we mean our board of directors. It’s three middle-aged men,” read the statement by Cybozu Inc., carried as a full-page advertisement in the Nikkei newspaper. “It’s truly embarrassing.”

Two of the three are the co-founders of the company, both former employees of what is now Panasonic Corp. The third, Vice President Osamu Yamada, will not seek re-election to the board next year. The men have an average age of 50.

The board of directors at firms on the benchmark Topix index are on average 7.1% female, while the mean age is 60.4, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In December, Cybozu announced it was soliciting applications internally for directors in an attempt to diversify its board. A final slate of 17 candidates includes five women, two people based in San Francisco, and one new graduate who joined the firm just last year. Shareholders will vote on the new board on March 28.

Shares in the firm, which develops web-based workplace productivity software, rose nearly 75% last year as more worked from home during the pandemic. They are up 1% so far in 2021, compared with a 7.7% gain in the Topix.

While the move may be seen at least partly as a publicity stunt, Cybozu’s Chief Executive Officer Yoshihisa Aono has in the past backed efforts for equality. He’s been an advocate for paternity leave, and was part of a group that brought a lawsuit against the Japanese state, saying a law that requires married couples to have the same name is unconstitutional. Aono took his wife’s last name when they married in 2001 but continued to use his birth name professionally.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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