Human Resource Strategy
SoftBank's future opened up
by promoting women in the workforce

  • Kayoko Miyazono
    Vice President,
    Head of East Area Division
    Consumer Business Unit
    Worked at an advertising agency before joining J-Phone Co., Ltd. in 2002 as a mid-career hire to work in marketing and advertising.
    Appointed Head of the Communications Division in 2017, and Vice President, Head of East Area Division since 2020. Also serves as a mentor in the Company's mentoring program for fostering female leaders.
  • Naomi Koshi
    External Director
    Worked as a lawyer and then as mayor of Otsu City prior to her appointment as an external director of SoftBank in June 2021. Has a wealth of knowledge and experience from working as a lawyer in Japan and overseas and is also engaged in various activities such as local government initiatives and supporting the advancement of women. Currently an advisor to the Committee for the Promotion of Women in the Workforce that was launched in July 2021.
  • Akari Kido
    Manager of Diversity Section
    HR Planning Department,
    HR Planning Division,
    HR Division, Corporate Unit
    Joined SB Human Capital Corp. as a new graduate and worked in job advertising. Worked in human resources after joining SoftBank before moving to the HR Strategy Department. Launched initiatives to promote women in the workforce before taking on a role to promote Company-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in 2017.

In light of the increasingly diverse values and views of people, SoftBank believes that taking action on diversity, equity, and inclusion (hereinafter, “DE&I”) in the workplace is key to improving corporate value and achieving a more sustainable society. As part of this initiative, we are taking steps to further the active participation of women at SoftBank, particularly by setting a target of 20% for women in management positions by fiscal year ending March 31, 2036. Naomi Koshi (External Director), Kayoko Miyazono (Vice President, Head in Consumer Business Unit), and Akari Kido (Manager in charge of promoting diversity) sat down together to discuss the need for promoting women in the workforce and what actions are required for the Company to achieve the target.

Adoption of various opinions leads to growth of an organization


After graduating from university I worked at an advertising agency. Partly because it was a medium-sized company, both men and women were assigned similar work roles to begin with, but as time went on, quite a few of my male colleagues left the company to further their careers. Women, on the other hand, had very few opportunities to do that, and I felt that it was hard to further my career unless I would possess a certain strength enabling me to stand out from the crowd.

After that I joined J-Phone Co., Ltd., which was the starting point of my career at SoftBank today. When I was first sounded out for a management position, I felt quite apprehensive, but my manager at the time was willing to assign work to all employees regardless of gender and his words of encouragement supported me and gave me a great deal of confidence to find my own style of work as a manager. As a company, SoftBank gets things done very quickly and has a mission to transform society with the latest technology, which is why I feel its support of people who are willing to play an active role irrespective of gender has also become a driving force of the Company's growth.


I became a manager roughly five years ago at a time when SoftBank's in-house DE&I and women's empowerment initiatives were shifting into full swing. At the time, in order to set a target for the percentage of women in management positions, we confirmed how work contribution levels relate to promotions. The confirmation results indicated no differences between men and women in terms of work assessment, but in terms of being qualified for a senior posting, men ranked above women. I had pure doubts about this gap, which is something that underpins the initiatives I'm striving to currently implement.


I previously served as the mayor of Otsu City in Shiga Prefecture. In light of that experience, I believe the acceptance of wide-ranging opinions, including those of women, contributes to the growth of an organization.

I can cite two examples of this. The first is how we went about solving the problem of children waiting to gain admission to a nursery school when I was mayor. I was motivated to stand for mayor because I wanted to build a community in which women could freely choose whether to work or raise their children or do both. When I previously worked at a law firm in the US, I was amazed that male attorneys would take childcare leave. At that time, around 50%-60% of women in Japan would quit their job after the birth of their first child. I was determined to change this situation, so during the eight-year period I served as mayor, I created 54 nursery schools attended by some 3,000 preschool children. I feel that listening to, and taking onboard, the views of women has helped solve the issue in society.

The second example is my experience working at the municipal government office as mayor. The organization of the municipal office is structured around life-time employment and a seniority system. So any attempt to change something there usually faced stiff resistance. Japan's shrinking population is telling us that the ways of doing things have to be overhauled. But I realized that if things would remain the same in such a uniform organization, it would struggle to see changes in the external environment and its line of thinking would also grow increasingly rigid. At the time, most of the managers were men, and I thought that a broad cross-section of opinions from mainly women and younger people needed to be injected in order for the organization to move forward.

Growth achieved through constant incorporation of many different views


Not only is the world situation undergoing intense changes, but the ICT industry in which SoftBank operates is also experiencing technological evolution and sharp fluctuations in the market environment. Under these circumstances, I believe diversity is absolutely essential if SoftBank is to guide society into the future as a leading corporation. As Ms. Koshi has already mentioned, if an organization is too heavily weighted toward people with the same stereotypical attitude, it will be reluctant to break away from past conventions, but I think the incorporation of diverse points of view, including the active participation of women, will enable it to respond quickly to change and even sow the seeds of different ideas and innovation. SoftBank, by leading the way in the changing times, has been needed by society.

Increasing diversity by promoting women in the workforce helps the Company grow, but it also benefits society. And I believe this is a key frame of reference if we are to realize the SoftBank corporate philosophy of “Information Revolution — Happiness for everyone.”


From a human resources perspective, a company's growth is inseparably linked to the growth of its people. The acceptance of diversity whereby the individuality of every person can be harnessed is key to growth in human capital. Whilst today's topic of discussion is about promoting women in the workforce, naturally there are differences and diversity among women too. In all of this, we are focused on the empowerment of women, which we could say is our first and foremost priority in promoting diversity.

I'm going to change the subject slightly here. If we look back on SoftBank's history, we can see that it started out in the wholesale distribution of computer software before expanding into Internet, mobile communications services, and other businesses outside of telecommunications. I believe SoftBank's transformation and growth have been achieved through the merging of people with broad-ranging business experience, or in other words, the sum of diversity of all people involved. As this history demonstrates, I believe the incorporation of fresh diversity through efforts to promote the participation of women and DE&I in the workplace will be momentous for SoftBank's further growth.


From an external point of view, I believe the empowerment of women in the workplace leads directly to enhancements in corporate value. For example, SoftBank is currently working on creating new businesses outside of telecommunications under the banner of the “Beyond Carrier” strategy, and I believe it can generate something entirely new by making best use of various viewpoints. I expect SoftBank to be able to seed new businesses and “Beyond Carrier innovations” by accommodating the needs of women, who make up half of the population in the world.

Inspiring courage to take a step forward and improving workstyles


In 2021, SoftBank set a concrete numerical target for promoting women in the Company (20% for women in management positions). This percentage was decided on with reference to the overall weighting of female employees.

In aiming to achieve this target, the Committee for the Promotion of Women in the Workforce was established under the ownership of President & CEO Miyakawa and comprising some of the Company's officers and external experts as members. The Committee is currently discussing the ratio of women in management positions that was set as a KPI and is analyzing the current situation, identifying issues, and examining what measures ought to be implemented going forward. Round table-like opportunities are also arranged so that officers can hear directly from female employees and managers within the organization. This enables the Committee to identify issues directly from the source.

A questionnaire survey revealed that the percentage of female employees that want to be appointed to a management position is lower than that of men. The main reasons cited were problems related to working styles and a lack of confidence.


In order to resolve the issue of the low number of female employees with management aspirations, as Ms. Kido just pointed out, I think we need to not only improve the workplace environment, but also change the mindset of women. I too lacked the confidence to hold a management position when I was recommended for a promotion. But confidence is not something you can simply wait around for. I think summoning the courage to take the first step is much more important than confidence. Boldly taking that first step and realizing that you have done better than expected is a valuable experience. This also applies to every single work task, not just the scenario of being promoted to manager. I intend to do what I can to support employees taking those first steps and I always talk about topics that might help change the mindset of female employees when I run career seminars for women, and also when I have dialogues with the members in our sales divisions.

Commitment from the top toward promoting women in the workforce


I think SoftBank is thoroughly addressing the four key points that I believe are of most importance if it is to attain a female management ratio of 20%—the Company's KPI for the promotion of women in the workforce.

The first is commitment from the top. As an external director at SoftBank, I attend the meetings of the Committee for the Promotion of Women in the Workforce, and I have witnessed President & CEO Miyakawa's strong commitment to the advancement of women in many different settings. Owing to his leadership, I have come to realize that the Company's officers and leaders on the ground are tackling this issue in earnest. It is also particularly pleasing to see bottom-up initiatives gaining traction based on the feedback of women in the workplace.

The second key point is thoroughgoing analysis of the situation. A lot of progress is being made on identifying issues from analyzing mainly collected data and the results of surveys, and as a result, even from an objective point of view, I think the Company's approach to achieving its target is progressing steadily.

Thirdly, the Company's systems. In addition to e-learning modules and training sessions designed to deepen an understanding of unconscious bias—which is an unavoidable part of human cognitive behavior—SoftBank offers employees a childcare support system that goes above and beyond what is required by law. The Company's numerous systems, including those pertaining to childcare, apply to not only women, but men as well, which are promotive of a comfortable working environment for all employees.

The fourth and final key point is the problem of awareness, which Ms. Miyazono and Ms. Kido also touched upon. Whilst this is an issue that we must surely address going forward, it is certainly not a problem unique to SoftBank—it is prevalent in Japanese society as a whole. To be more specific, the empowerment of women is not about encouraging women to try their hardest. The awareness of those in positions of seniority needs to change before anything else. And one more thing is the problem of confidence among women. This is an issue that goes right back to Japan's education system, even before women think about joining a company. So, fixing it will take time, but it is something we must go about addressing on a daily basis. For example, places like the co-working space for women that was established in response to a proposal from a female employee of SoftBank can contribute to a transformation in mindset through open discussions of the joys and troubles of work among female employees.

Aiming to achieve our target at an early stage and spurring growth as a company


I believe human resources are the “treasure” of SoftBank. I'm aware that it is the responsibility of Board Directors to create a comfortable workplace environment for employees from all walks of life, whether they be women, men, those caring for children or loved ones, foreigners, sexual minorities in the LGBTQ community, or people with disabilities.


If I'm to be honest, SoftBank is still like a toddler still learning how to walk the path of promoting the active participation of women. On the other hand, it is also a company with the strength to invariably achieve what it sets out to do in due course. Since women's empowerment at SoftBank took off under President & CEO Miyakawa's commitment, we could probably achieve our KPI target in less than 10 years from now, well before the year 2035. To that end, I too intend to help bring about changes in mindset and lend my support to female employees taking their first steps towards furthering their careers.


Today we mostly talked about promoting women in the workforce, but what we ultimately want to achieve is DE&I and to become a company where each and every employee can be their true selves and be actively involved. I hope we can use the promotion of women's empowerment as a starting point to foster this kind of corporate culture and grow further as a company.