BLOG | Why Tokyo 2020 is set to champion women’s rights like never before

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In March, the world united to celebrate International Women’s Day. I am sure I am not alone in being really excited about how the legacy of that symbolic event filters through to women’s lives on a day-to-day basis, and also how it can be a driver for change in other very high-profile events like the Olympics.

Therefore, I am especially thrilled to see Seiko Hashimoto being recently elected as the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee. Tamayo Marukawa, meanwhile, succeeded her as Japan’s Olympic minister. With Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, there are now three women holding key leadership positions in the organization of the Olympic Games. This is fantastic news in the broader quest for equality.

As a woman in technology who has been paying attention to the subject of female leadership for some time, I believe we should strive to give women more opportunities because when women are fairly represented, we are closer to achieving the goal of having a truly diversified team. That is one of the reasons why I think Tokyo 2020 will have a lasting legacy for women globally.

Equality requires the commitment of men and women

Despite that though, I think it is important to have men involved when addressing the whole gender equality cause and to consider what role they can play in order to honor the concept of equality. It is only when men and women are working together as equals that we will be able to achieve greater things for all of society.

However, it is important to pay attention to the balance, which historically has seen more men in positions of power than women, to ensure that the valuable voice of women is heard loud and clear.

Great female role models should be celebrated

This year’s International Women’s Day centered around “Women in Leadership.” I think it is truly inspiring to see Seiko, Tamayo and Yuriko in their respective roles. Having women like them in senior leadership positions shows that the ‘glass ceiling’ that has prevented many women from achieving their goals can be shattered.

It also sends a powerful message to all organizations that they need to revise their assumptions or preconceptions not only of what women can achieve, but what women’s expectations are in the modern workplace.

A legacy like no other

Taking into account the unprecedented pandemic, the Olympic Games are arguably even more significant this year. I think they will have a powerful legacy for Japan and for the general public because despite the present challenges, the pandemic has also brought out the best in people.

For example, we have seen so many acts of kindness as people work to support family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers through the pandemic. We have seen the tireless efforts of medical professionals and those responsible for developing the vaccines. You could say that the pandemic united us all.

The pandemic uniting us all has parallels with sport. Our love for sporting excellence brings together fans from all walks of life, from every faith, every country, and every socio-economic group. The Olympics is the ultimate expression of that unity. For me, the timing of Tokyo 2020 is symbolic because it is about unity and, hopefully, a brand-new start for us all in the Covid-19 era.

Putting a spotlight on equality

I am especially excited that in Tokyo, for the first time ever, there will be at least one female and one male athlete in every one of the 206 teams and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Olympic Team participating at the Games. Thanks to the IOC changing the rules to allow one male and one female athlete to jointly carry their flag during the Opening Ceremony. It really is important to have this equal representation put right in the spotlight.

The Olympics can play a role in further advancing gender equality because it is watched and loved by tens of millions of people across the globe and is one of the most powerful international platforms you can use to drive societal change.

That’s why I think Tokyo 2020 could well be a turning point for equality and I don’t think I will be the only one cheering loudly when I see a man and a woman proudly carrying their flag during the opening ceremony.

At Alibaba Cloud, we see an emerging role for technology companies to address the gender gap by increasing access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and careers for women as well as ensuring equality in the pursuit of senior positions in the industry. This as a fundamental social responsibility that is at the same time in our best interest. After all, greater gender diversity is good for business and better for society.

The hard work starts in the workplace

I believe that the pursuit of equality for women is about removing systemic barriers and providing a pathway for women to self-determine and achieve their full potential. We are proud that women represent almost half of the Alibaba Group’s workforce, with female executives’ representation at 34 percent.

We have been fortunate enough to work with non-profit organizations to provide training and cloud computing resources for African women engineers to help them along their career paths toward engineering and other practical subjects.

Everyone has a role to play in ending gender stereotypes and preconceptions. This means all of society, including governments, education institutions, workplaces, and the media have a responsibility in addressing the issue.

Technology unites us all

As the digital technology and intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, Alibaba Cloud wants to use its cloud computing technologies to build the infrastructure backbone of the Games, enabling an easy, secure, and seamless experience for all stakeholders. And we are proud that we have served a lot of customers globally.

In collaboration with the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS), Alibaba Cloud introduced a more powerful and efficient way to broadcast the Games, called OBS Cloud. This will help transform the media experience by creating an optimal environment for Olympic rights holding broadcasters and by streamlining real-time, high-definition content production and distribution during game time.

OBS Cloud helps extend the reach of global sporting events to more audiences, while helping broadcasters further digitize their operations wherever they are. By leveraging the platform, broadcasters can do a significant proportion of their jobs, from post-production to commentary, from their own countries.

Another example we are proud of is a partnership with fellow TOP Partner Intel. Together we created 3D Athlete Tracking, a technology which uses cameras to extract data from athletes in motion to create optimized training programs for them.

As a Worldwide Partner of the Olympics, we share with the IOC the vision of using technology and sports to level the playing field and create equal opportunities for women. We believe technology will make the Games more inclusive and accessible to people of different genders, races, and ages around the world.

Looking ahead to the games by working together pragmatically, I am confident that we can achieve our goals and enjoy a society where gender equality can thrive and prosper to benefit everyone. 

The author is the general manager of international business unit at Alibaba Cloud Intelligence

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