The image of the Japanese woman struggling in a male-dominated society has become so entrenched as to be almost a cliche.

Afraid to take leadership initiative, the "well-behaved woman" stays one step behind a man, in a supporting role, according to the stereotype. And with relatively few exceptions in the business, government and nonprofit sectors, men indeed still appear to run Japan.

So when a group of educated and highly motivated women unite under one roof for discussions on how to bring about positive social change and innovation on the front lines in Japan, it is no stretch to say they are breaking the mold.