Changing the cultural mindset entrenched in Japanese society that underestimates and undervalues women's abilities is not only key to promoting them to leadership positions, it will also lead to wider social and financial gains for all.

That is what Irene Natividad, president of the Global Summit of Women, said in a recent interview when she was in Tokyo for the group's annual summit, which drew more than 1,300 business and political leaders from over 60 countries.

When asked about Japan's slow progress in bridging the gender gap, she talked about how culture often stands in the way.