Hundreds of working women from Hokkaido to Okinawa gathered at the 18th International Conference for Women in Business in Tokyo's Odaiba district to discuss ways to close Japan's huge gender gap and help women play bigger roles in the workforce.

As the government plays up the need to employ more women to spark economic growth, female business executives and lawmakers spoke Sunday about the important roles women play in various fields and agreed they should not hesitate to take leading roles at work.

The conference, which is also supported by The Japan Times, kicked off with a speech by Kaori Sasaki, founder and CEO of the consultancy ewoman Inc., which organizes the annual event. Sasaki emphasized that society has finally begun motivating more women to join the business world.