Changing people’s mindsets and involving men in dealing more with women’s issues are key to empowering women, participants at this year’s joint World Assembly for Women and Women 20 summit agreed on Sunday as their two-day meeting in Tokyo came to a close.

“I am sure there was a little something that each of us can take away” from the summit, said Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in her closing remarks at the meeting, which brought lawmakers, diplomats and business executives together to discuss a wide range of issues on empowering women.

“I urge you to share your experiences with those around you and translate that into concrete action,” she said.

Although the summit covered a broad range of topics, including the digital gender gap, sexual violence, and women in the workplace, a theme that was raised repeatedly was the need to involve men in women’s issues.

“I personally got the impression that only one in ten people in the audience were men during a panel discussion I attended earlier,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and deputy chief Cabinet secretary.

“It’s great that women have such a strong presence here, but it’s essential for men to understand and get involved in these issues … for women to be empowered,” he added.

Corporate executives at a panel discussion on how companies can better foster gender equality in the workplace also stressed the importance of engaging men in women’s issues.

“We very quickly noticed the fact that (women’s issues) has to be shared with and embraced by men … because men are part of the solution not the problem,” said Stacey Kennedy, president of the South and South East Asia Region of Philip Morris International, when speaking of her experiences of being part of a commission to improve gender equality in the workplace.

“I found very little, if at all, bad intent” on behalf of the men, and the reaction among men was “mostly shock and surprise,” she explained, stressing the importance of revealing unconscious biases.

Philip Morris International became the first global multinational firm earlier this month to receive official certification for paying its employees, regardless of gender, equally for their work across the globe by the Equal-Salary Foundation, an independent Swiss-based third-party organization that accredits companies for equal pay.

The World Women for Assembly plans to release written suggestions at a later date on how to achieve better gender equality based on the discussions held at the two-day gathering.

The W20 submitted a communique to Prime Minister Abe on Saturday for further discussion at the Group of 20 summit, to be held in Osaka in June.

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