There’s a bad smell to Japan’s corporate governance reform
A sharp local proverb captures the sense of tokenism and old mores resisting change
Last Friday afternoon, moments after the resignation of Yoshiro Mori as president of the Tokyo Olympics committee, a board member of one of the games’ largest sponsor companies texted me a terse Japanese proverb: “A lid has been placed on the thing that stinks.”
The image of a cosmetic quick-fix was well chosen. The forced departure of 83-year-old Mori, an outrage-packed week after he asserted that women don’t belong on boards, may end the immediate stench. But its source — a mix of ingrained gender inequality, invisible networks that support the incompetent, excessive deference to authority, opaque habits of governance and other stabilisers of the unacceptable — continues to fester, untreated in the pot. It is a smell that hangs around too much of corporate Japan...