TOKYO – Tokyo 2020 Games chief Yoshiro Mori (picture) has apologised and said he may have to resign after sparking a sexism row by claiming women speak too much in meetings, a Japanese daily said Thursday.
Mori, an 83-year-old former prime minister known for public gaffes, told the Mainichi Shimbun he was sorry for his “thoughtless” remarks, which prompted calls for him to step down.
“If calls for my resignation grow louder, I might be compelled to resign,” Mori was quoted as telling the newspaper on Thursday.
“It was thoughtless. I’d like to apologise,” he added.
Mori is reported to have said Wednesday 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, with his wife giving him a “thorough scolding.”
“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, some of whom were reported to have laughed in response.
The JOC decided last year to aim to have 40 percent female board members, but as of November, there are just five women among the board’s 24 members.
‘Understands their place’
“We have about seven women at the organising committee but everyone understands their place,” Mori is reported to have said at the Wednesday meeting.
Tokyo 2020 has not responded to a request for comment on Mori’s remarks, but has called a press conference for later Thursday that is expected to address the row.
Nippon TV reported that Mori would “firmly respond” to reports on his remarks, but that he was not currently planning to resign.
A government spokesman declined to be drawn on calls for his resignation, but JOC member and former judoka Kaori Yamaguchi called Mori’s comments “unfortunate”.
“Gender equality and considerations for people with disabilities were supposed to be prerequisite for holding the Tokyo Games,” the Sports Hochi newspaper quoted her as saying.
“It is unfortunate that the representative of the organising committee would make such a remark.”
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.
Mori has a history of making controversial remarks, and made waves earlier this week by insisting the pandemic-posted Games would go ahead this summer “however the coronavirus (pandemic) evolves”.
The comments came with polls showing around 80 percent of Japanese oppose holding the Games this year, and as several parts of Japan are under a virus state of emergency.
On Thursday, a popular Japanese comedian described those remarks as “incomprehensible” and said he would no longer take part in the Olympic torch relay, domestic media reported.