Yanmar is committed to diversity as part of its globalization strategy, with the goal of attracting world-class professional talent regardless of nationality or gender.
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 improve corporate performance and become a company where all Group employees can feel fulfilled and proud of their work.
This article includes interviews with the COO of Yanmar Holdings, the CEO of Yanmar Construction Machinery, and the CEO of Yanmar Energy System International on the present and future of diversity at the company.
COO, Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd.
CEO, Yanmar Construction Equipment Co., Ltd.
CEO, Yanmar Energy System International Co., Ltd.
What diversity means for YANMAR
―― How do you define diversity?
Parodi: Diversity means everyone “having the right to a seat at the table”. It recognizes that we are all different, in visible and non-visible ways, and those differences are recognized and embraced. The most successful companies foster a workforce that is not only diverse — but where people feel that they are empowered, and safe to fully contribute their ideas.
Aarsen: For the top management, it is important to push changes and generate an inclusive culture. We need to make sure on the management level to understand and actually believe in the value rather than just sending messages.
Yamamoto: Diversity is really about being open-minded and being open to discussion. It’s important to create an atmosphere where everybody feels safe to voice their opinions. This is the kind of culture I’d love to create.
――What do you think about the culture of diversity at Yanmar right now?
Parodi: Yanmar is getting bigger and is becoming more global. Such a fundamental change can be difficult, and old ways of working are hard to let go of. But I can feel the eagerness of the company to change, evolve, and embrace new ways of working. As an Italian national in a senior management position, I am a good example of this new cultural openness and increased international diversity. Such experimentation may be sometimes uncomfortable, but the potential upsides of greater diversity far outweigh the risks.
Aarsen: When I joined, Yanmar was one of the first Japanese companies to appoint a foreigner to the board. In 2020, Yanmar’s first female board member was appointed, which was a sign that the company is open to change. I’ve also been promoting English as the common company language, especially among the management team, to include people from different cultures to realize diversity.
We’re an engineering and development-oriented company. Perhaps the engineering-minded culture makes it more difficult for women to enter. We need to make this company more attractive for talented female engineers too. We also need to think about the quality of work regardless of gender or age.
Yamamoto: How can we become more global? We’ve been asking this question for a long time. We established Yanmar Holdings in 2013 for that reason too. Back then, the percentage of revenue from outside Japan was only 30%, but now it has grown to more than 50% of total revenue.
We believe it is important to “think globally, act locally”. It’s important to think on a global level, but action is needed to fit in each market and division.
Action for women’s empowerment
――What is your take on gender equality and women’s empowerment which is one of the SDGs?
Parodi: We are an engineering company—and the fact is that today there aren’t enough female engineers, so that in this field, there is currently a gender gap. But rather than just accept gender inequality as an unchangeable fact, we should engage in activities to make more people aware of the appeal of engineering.
As a market leader we should be helping promote the many benefits to women too of working in engineering. One way to do this is to encourage women in this field to choose engineering at university. Another approach is to change our own work policies so that they suit women and families. If we get our gender mix right, the potential upside for our business, and the happiness of employees—both men and women—will be great.
Aarsen: Regardless of gender, we should create a good working environment for all, ensuring a good work-life balance for everybody. If we can create a better work-life balance, women will be more encouraged to participate. Since the pandemic, remote work culture has been promoted even more, which I think will help us to realize more opportunities.
Yamamoto: It goes without saying that it’s important to create a good working environment for women too. On the other hand, as Parodi says, the most important thing is to increase employee engagement, not numerical goals.
Engagement means everyone feels comfortable in the workplace. If there is anyone who feels uncomfortable, it’s important to determine why, discuss, and share the process with all.
――March 8 is International Women’s Day. How do you see the future of women’s empowerment in Yanmar?
Parodi: At Yanmar, we believe that empowering women is essential to the progress of the company. Recognizing the fact that many women are currently working while also raising children, we need to be flexible as a company so that they reach their full potential.
To explore ways of doing this, we have recently established a “work-life balance committee” within our construction department. This committee will see people from different backgrounds, ages, cultures, genders and job titles come together to have discussions in an open setting about what Yanmar and employees can do to improve their work-life balance.
Among a host of issues, it will discuss subjects like women’s empowerment. I expect this forum to raise many topics we usually don’t speaking about, and act as an important catalyst for change and progress in Yanmar.
Society is in continuous evolution. What we are talking about now will eventually become outdated. That’s why it’s important to exchange ideas outside of our departments.
Aarsen: Again, we’d like to create a better work-life balance for all. We would also like to promote a more open and inclusive culture necessary to achieve this. As it is International Women’s Day, I would like to encourage our employees to become more actively involved in the issues and support those that are important to women, such as work-life balance.
Yamamoto: We want to become a company of choice for people regardless of gender, especially those who are ready to take on challenges.
The key to achieving diversity – Looking Ahead to the Next 100 Years
――How do you plan to further evolve diversity in the future?
Parodi: To reach our diversity goals we will need to transform our ways of working and also challenge some of our traditional beliefs. For this to happen in the way we want, we need practical and structured support to make these desired changes a reality.
One example of this is that employees should become more aware of the need for diversity and inclusion, via training programs. This will help us recognize our conscious and unconscious biases and be more open to the benefits of having the widest possible diversity within our workforce. I intend to foster a culture in Yanmar Construction Equipment where everyone feels that their voice is heard and valued—no matter their gender, age, background or beliefs etc..
Aarsen: This is not only about establishing the correct mindset, but it is also becoming a necessity for the company. At the moment, the majority of our business is based in Japan, but to achieve future growth, we need to attract new talent regardless of gender or nationality. In Japan we need to start actively promoting an atmosphere that embraces it.
Yamamoto: The most important thing is that our people understand the company’s vision and implement it in the course of their daily duties. Any major policy depends on the people who assimilate it and implement it in their daily activities. In that sense, communication and training are very important.
――Finally, what are your dreams for the realization of “diversity?”
Parodi: Yanmar can be a very global company. It is difficult for Western companies to expand into Japan, but the opposite is possible! So, let’s not miss this opportunity!
Aarsen: Yanmar will become a more global company in the future. It is my dream that our efforts to become more open and inclusive will permeate throughout the organization. Moreover, it’s important to support the junior generation. The more junior talent we have in management, the more we will be able to accelerate change in the organization.
Yamamoto: I agree. In the future, we will further reform our work style in order to realize more diversity.
We will continue to transform our management with a longer-term perspective, rather than thinking merely of quarterly issues, and we will keep an eye toward the next 100 years.
Text: Mariko Sugita
Editing: Noriyuki Oka
Photos: Kei Ito