The 15th APEC Women Leaders Network meeting kicked off Sunday in Tokyo with the theme of “Creation of new global economic activities by women.”

About 300 to 500 female business leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economies gathered here for the three-day meeting through Tuesday, which has been held annually in countries that host the APEC forum.

In her opening address, Tomiko Okazaki, newly appointed Cabinet minister in charge of gender equality, cited surveys that reflect women’s contribution to the economy. Companies with more female executives are performing better, she quoted one of the surveys as saying.

She also said that Japan still has a great deal of work to do on improving the working environment for women — especially those who get married and have children — since the national birthrate is declining.

The APEC WLN meeting started in 1996 in Manila to promote women’s economic activities as a means to bring about gender equality.

“I believe that women’s active contribution is becoming more and more important in each economy,” said Yukako Uchinaga, who chairs the 2010 APEC WLN Steering Committee.

She said she hopes the meeting will hold constructive discussions on such topics as women’s future economic activities and the roles women need to play for sustainable economic development.

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