Meet the woman hoping to succeed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tomomi Inada, a key advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Few women have tried and none have succeeded.

On example is current Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who contested the LDP leadership election in 2008, but lost, finishing a distant third. Veteran lawmaker Seiko Noda failed in 2015 and 2018 to secure the 20 signatures from party members required to get on the ballot.

“There’s still a mentality that politicians should be male,” Inada said, adding she favors setting targets and incentives to help increase the number of female politicians.

Japan ranked 165 out of 191 countries in percentage of women in parliament as of Jan. 1 this year, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organization of national parliaments, and UN Women, which promotes gender equality. Women accounted for 10.2 percent of Japan’s lower house of parliament and 20.7 percent of the upper house, the data show.

As part of his economic program, Abe has sought more participation by women in the economy due to its shrinking workforce as a result of Japan’s rapidly aging population and declining birth rates.

Still, Japan came in 110 out of 149 countries and economies ranked in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report issued in December. The study examined four categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, as well as political empowerment. Japan’s result was the lowest among the Group of Seven nations, though four spots higher than the year before.

A lawyer by training and a member of parliament since 2005, Inada is not easy to characterize.

A self-described conservative who has been loath to criticize Japan’s wartime history, she has taken progressive stands on acceptance of foreign workers and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) advocacy.

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