Innovation is not only the key to a country’s and organization’s competitiveness, but also to sustainable and inclusive growth. We need creative, breakthrough ideas to move forward while resolving complex and inter-related challenges such as poverty, employment, education and the environment.

The conventional approach will not work; we need diverse views and perspectives. We need new ideas from those who can actually implement them too. Who else would better fit this requirement other than women?

There is enough evidence indicating that women have the potential to make a great impact in society when they are educated, given free choices and offered equal opportunity to important decision-making. While countries such as Japan and Myanmar may face different challenges – the former an ageing society with a mature market and the latter making a transition to democracy – they share one common issue: empowering women (and girls) to move the country ahead.

Japan has struggled with this issue over the past two decades, but progress has been slow. However, with visible changes in policies by the current administration and support from the business community as well as grassroots activities for networking among women, I am committed to make the best of this momentum.

As a moderator of the “Mainstreaming Gender” session at the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar, I am confident that we can push gender issues to the forefront and make this the century for Asian women.

Author: Yoko Ishikura is a Professor at the Graduate School of Media Design at Keio University in Japan, and Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Education & Skills.

 Image: A japanese businesswoman commutes to work in Tokyo REUTERS/Kiyoshi Ota