Tokyo 2020 Games chief Yoshiro Mori has apologised and said he may have to resign after sparking a sexism row by claiming women “have difficulty” speaking concisely, a Japanese daily said on February 4.
Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister known for public gaffes, told the Mainichi was sorry for his “thoughtless” remarks, which prompted calls for him to step down.
“I think I might have to take responsibility, and if calls for my resignation grow louder, I might be compelled to resign,” Mori was quoted as saying.
“It was thoughtless. I’d like to apologise,” he added.
Mori was reported as saying on February 3 that “board of directors meetings with many women take a lot of time”, according to the Asahi Shimbun daily.
“When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” he reportedly said.
The comments sparked a furious reaction in Japan, with the phrases “enough already”, “misogyny” and “we demand Yoshiro Mori resigns” all trending on Twitter.
Mori said he had been taken to task by the female members of his family as a result.
“Last night, my wife gave me a thorough scolding,” Mori told the Mainichi.
“She said: ‘You’ve said something bad again, haven’t you? I’m going to have to suffer again because you’ve antagonised women.’ This morning, my daughter and granddaughter scolded me as well,” he said.
“I was trying to say that I wonder about the general opinion that we should just increase the number of women,” he added. “I wasn’t trying to slight women at all.”
He made the remarks to members of the Japan Olympic Committee (JOC), some of whom were reported to have laughed in response.
The JOC itself decided last year to aim for more than 40 per cent of female members at the board, but as of November, there are just five women among the board’s 24 members.
Tokyo 2020 has not so far responded to a request for comment on Mori’s remarks, and a government spokesman declined to be drawn on calls for his resignation.
While ranking highly on a range of international indicators, Japan persistently trails on promoting gender equality, ranking 121 out of 153 nations surveyed in the 2020 global gender gap report of the World Economic Forum.