“When you see some politician campaigning for ‘gender equality’ like a slogan — it feels so outdated, don’t you think?” An online advertisement featuring a woman reading these lines has sparked a furor in Japan. But does she have a point? Let’s look at the evidence.

In a recent survey, over 60% of respondents in Japan felt that its society favors men. Asked to estimate how long it would take for Japan to elect its first female prime minister, the average response was 27.9 years.

The government has set a goal of raising the ratio of women running in national elections to 35% by 2025, but two-thirds of active female lawmakers think it will be hard to achieve, another survey shows. Right now, Japan ranks 166th out of 190 countries in terms of the ratio of women in lower or single houses of parliament, at 10% compared to a global average of 26%.

A demonstrator takes part in a march on March 8, International Women's Day, in Tokyo. | REUTERS
A demonstrator takes part in a march on March 8, International Women’s Day, in Tokyo. | REUTERS

In business too, there’s still a way to go to even the scales. Earlier this month, the Japan Business Federation appointed the first female vice chair in its 75-year history. Days earlier, the government nominated Nomura Asset Management CEO Junko Nakagawa to the Bank of Japan’s board — to replace the only woman on the nine-member board now.

On the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, at least, 40% of members are women — but that’s only because a woman, Seiko Hashimoto, now runs the show. Hashimoto was a choice forced on the government after her predecessor, Yoshiro Mori, lost his job for a sexist comment (not his last, it seems), and his preferred successor — another elderly man — was withdrawn from contention amid another public outcry.

So, if you see a politician campaigning for “gender equality” like a slogan, does it feel outdated? Answers on a postcard, please.