March 8 is International Women’s Day. It was established by the United Nations in 1975 as a day to recognize the achievements of women regardless of nationality, nation, language, culture, or economic and political barriers.
It is also linked to Goal number 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by the United Nations in 2015: Achieve gender equality.
Yanmar has adopted Diversity for YANMAR as its guiding principle and is working to promote diversity as part of its globalization strategy to create world-class professional human resources regardless of nationality, gender, or age. By accepting and respecting differences in gender, nationality, lifestyle, culture, and other factors, and by making the best use of each individual’s abilities, Yanmar aims to enhance our corporate value and become a company where all employees can be proud and fulfilled in their work.
As part of its efforts to promote diversity, from February 8 to March 8, a month of activities in support of International Women’s Day were held at Yanmar locations all around the world to consider gender equality, and Diversity & Inclusion.
Ms. Mayu Nakanishi of the Diversity Promotion Group, Human Resources Division of Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd. was in charge of planning the International Women’s Day event. She shared her thoughts about the background of the event, the thoughts of team members, feedback from employees and the prospects for D&I promotion in the Yanmar group.
Why did Yanmar hold an in-house event for International Women’s Day?
Nakanishi described three main objectives of the month of International Women’s Day activities.
The first is to encourage employees to think about SDGs and gender equality, and to foster a corporate culture that respects diversity.
The second is to show respect and appreciation for employees who make daily efforts to empower women. The target was not limited to female employees but included everyone who makes an effort to create a better work environment.
The third objective is to foster a sense of unity among employees. Further to this objective was the goal of promoting mutual understanding and building relationships by working together on projects related to the event and expressing daily appreciation.
“In order to foster an internal culture in which all employees can work comfortably, I first needed to raise awareness,” said Nakanishi. “I decided to hold the event for a month rather than for a single day because I felt that a certain period was necessary for this to happen.”
The key visual for the event was created using the mimosa flower as a motif, the symbol of International Women’s Day.
The theme for the 2023 International Women’s Day as set by the United Nations is, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Yanmar’s Key Visual incorporated this theme and expressed it in a triangle design that invokes the idea of a flourishing potential of people and the future in Yanmar’s spirit of HANASAKA through the appearance of a large blooming flower. The design was created to give a soft impression while incorporating straight lines.
Conducting hybrid events
A website was specially built to celebrate Yanmar’s month of International Women’s Day activities.
The website features an interview with three Yanmar executives discussing “The Present and Future of Diversity Promotion,” and a video of a dialogue between Nakanishi and Norimichi Hamaguchi, Chief Human Resource Officer Director Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd., Member of the Board, discussing their thoughts on International Women’s Day.
Expectations for International Women’s Day
The interview movie between Nakanishi and Norimichi Hamaguchi, Chief Human Resource Officer Director Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd., Member of the Board and the Manager, can be viewed above.
Messages from women managers around the world are also available on the website. They introduced their views on their careers and shared words of encouragement with employees.
The main physical content was the “Let’s Bloom Together!” message tree installed at the Yanmar head office building.
It is designed to make mimosa flowers bloom by attaching triangular stickers printed with thank-you messages from employees around the world.
“I received a variety of heartwarming messages, some addressed to partners and family members, and others to employees and colleagues.” says Nakanishi.
In addition, a visual panel of the event along with an installation of mimosa flowers were placed at the entrance of the head office and in the elevator halls of each floor where offices are located. The general reception area was decorated with mimosa flowers during the period so that visitors to the office could also share in the significance of this event.
“I planned this event so that not only our employees but also visitors to the company during the event could experience International Women’s Day and learn about Yanmar’s diversity activities.” says Nakanishi.
Encouraging Employee Participation
The event was designed to provide an opportunity for all employees to participate and think about gender equality.
One of the ways to achieve this was through a virtual meeting wallpaper created for the event. It created an opportunity for many employees to experience International Women’s Day on a daily basis by using the virtual background for their online meetings.
In addition, the menus served at some Yanmar Group cafeterias were changed during the event. From March 1 to 8, all menus served in the cafeterias featured yellow colors.
Nakanishi: “This let people experience International Women’s Day not only by seeing and hearing, but also by smelling, tasting, and touching with all five senses. I also added a flag as a key visual to make people more aware of the month.
Behind the scenes and the commitment to diversity
“At first, I focused on communicating the purpose and significance of the event within the company,” said Nakanishi. “I proposed this project at a meeting of directors and managers of the Human Resources Divisions of Yanmar Group companies, and the project members worked to share the project in the Group.”
After publicizing the event, Nakanishi then tried to get people to actively participate in the event.
“I clearly communicated with each division about things that I expected them to implement, as well as actions that were optional. All divisions had to display posters and record local initiatives. In addition, I asked for voluntary cooperation in decorating spaces using mimosas, providing yellow ribbons for receptionists, and implementing changes of the cafeteria menu,” says Nakanishi. “I wanted people to participate to the extent that they could without it becoming a burden. But most of all, I wanted them to enjoy their participation.”
As it is still in its first year of implementation, Nakanishi and her colleagues in the Diversity Promotion Group were feeling their way through the process, calling for cooperation from the Branding Division, the human resources departments of each division, and the regional headquarters.
“After all, diversity cannot be realized without the understanding of others. For this reason, it was very important to make sure that all employees could participate, and it was necessary to involve a variety of people. Because I had to involve such a wide variety of partners, I was conscious of the need to facilitate the participation of employees from any country without them feeling uncomfortable, so that they would feel empathy for the promotion of diversity,” says Nakanishi.
Voluntary efforts by companies in all regions
The call by Nakanishi and others spread to other locations in Japan and abroad, leading to a range of voluntary efforts by local entities.
Yanmar Energy System Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in Fukuoka Prefecture set the goal to make people aware of International Women’s Day this year, with the assumption that events such as this would not be a one-off but would be continued next year and beyond.
For that reason, the team tried to find ways to update the content every week during the event through efforts such as online networking for female employees and decorations on the nameplates of the president and division heads. Next year, the goal is to move from ‘knowing’ to ‘understanding’.
Comments received from employees during the event included: “It was a good opportunity to learn about International Women’s Day,” “There are not many colors in our factory, so bright yellow posters and message tree were very festive and brightened up the whole factory and our mood,” “I saw employees talking with each other in front of the message tree,” and “I was able to communicate with them in a way I don’t usually have the opportunity to do.”
We are beginning to see a change in awareness. For instance, there was a comment that said: “if we could communicate not only about women, but also about gender equality in general including men, who are also equally involved in the issue, we might be able to attract more people who are interested in our activities. I would like to find a better way of communicating our message next year.”
The overseas Yanmar Groups also implemented initiatives that took advantage of the characteristics of each country.
For example, in Singapore and Thailand, female employees received souvenirs such as yellow cupcakes and succulent plants that symbolize the strength to survive in a tough environment. Some locations, such as India, decorated their offices with purple, a color that symbolizes diversity.
Prospects for Diversity Promotion in the Future
On March 8, Yanmar’s inaugural month of International Women’s Day activities came to a successful conclusion. The results of the post-event questionnaire suggest that Yanmar was successful in its initial goal of encouraging employees to think more about gender equality.
Comments from employees
Thank you for organizing such a wonderful event! I hope that this group will be a place where not only women but also each and every employee can shine.”
“I strongly feel that our work is carried out with the cooperation of many people on a daily basis. I am filled with gratitude that all Yanmar employees are cooperative and warm, and that I am able to work in a very good environment. Thank you for everything!”
“To our lovely colleagues, thank you for being such wonderful people to work with! It is always such great pleasure to work together and learn from you. Thank you for setting a great example for all of us to strive towards!”
Based on these results, Nakanishi shared her outlook for the next fiscal year and beyond.
“This year, I started by getting people to know what International Women’s Day is. In the future, I would like to improve and expand our activities to the point where I can get people to think more deeply about it and act on it. There are many things I want to do to promote diversity. We have established ‘Diversity for YANMAR’ as our diversity policy, and we are working to create an environment in which diverse employees can play an active role, for example, by providing support for creating work and life balance and enhancing training programs. However, this event is just a milestone on our journey. I believe that when we have a workplace that is easy to work in regardless of gender, nationality, and culture, we will be closer to a workplace that is easy to work in for everyone, including the elderly and people with disabilities. I would like to continue our efforts from a long-term perspective.” says Nakanishi.
[Reporting] Fumiaki Sato
[Editing] Noriyuki Oka
[Photography] Norifumi Yamada