”Women, they have a very competitive nature.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Organizing Committee for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics held a meeting, with committee president Yoshiro Mori in attendance. Among the topics discussed was an objective of raising the proportion of committee board members who are women to 40 percent or more, in compliance with guidelines from the Japan Sports Agency, a division of the Japanese government’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Currently women make up only 20 percent (5 out of 25 members) of the Organizing Committee’s board.

However, Mori, a former prime minister, was less than enthusiastic about boosting the number of women in the committee’s highest ranks. This wasn’t due to a professed principle that positions should be awarded to the most capable candidate, regardless of gender, nor did Mori’s reluctance stem from a belief that men have an inherently better understanding of sports. No, Mori’s concern is that conversations where women are involved take too long, as he opined:

“If we increase the number of female directors, we will have to place limits on speaking time, or else the discussions will never end.”

Mori might have been able to try to play that off as an ill-advised joke spilling out from a musty sense of humor, but he instead doubled down, citing his experiences as head of the Japan Rugby Football Union, which saw increases in its number of female board members during Mori’s tenure.

“Meetings began to take twice as long as they used to. Women, they have a very competitive nature. If one of them makes a statement, then all of the others think they have to say something too. Everyone ends up saying something.”

Multiple strange leaps of logic immediately stand out. First, while being able to work as part of a team is important for members of any organization, it seems like having a competitive streak would be a positive in organizing high level sports competitions. The even bigger headscratcher, though, is the implication that having directors who make statements during meetings is a bad thing. Note that his complaint isn’t that the women he had meetings with were less precise or took more time to make statements than their male counterparts, but specifically that they all stated their opinions, implying that he finds directors who contribute nothing at all preferable.

Mori has never had a reputation as an eloquent or tactful statesman, but the Japanese public is still surprised at how far he was able to jam his foot into his mouth this time, with online reactions including:

“When Mori talks, it’s like watching a garbage truck with no brakes.”
“He’s an embarrassment to the country.”
“So does he just want to ut together a group of yes-men with no opinions of their own?”
“This made me so angry that now I’m depressed.”
“He has no ability to gauge if what he says is appropriate or not.”
“I think his brain is rotten right down to the stem.”
“Wouldn’t it be best if he just stepped down already?”

Given the 83-year-old Mori’s political clout, and the short amount of time left until the Tokyo Olympics planned July opening, odds are he’ll neither step down nor be replaced. However, as a guy who seems to think silence is golden, he might want to be more careful in picking the words he says.

Sources: NHK News Web, Asahi Shimbun Digital, Twitter/@YahooNewsTopics, Twitter/@nhk_news, Twitter/@livedoornews, Twitter/@asahi
Top image: Pakutaso
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