TOKYO -- Board meetings with a lot of women "take so much time," the president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee said Wednesday in addressing a government initiative to increase representation of female directors.
"Women have a strong sense of competition," said Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister, at a meeting of the Japanese Olympic Committee. "If one person raises their hand, others probably think, I need to say something too. That's why everyone speaks."
In line with Japan's governance code, the JOC has set a goal of raising the ratio of female directors to 40%. Mori's comments came as he discussed the steps taken for the Tokyo Olympics.
"The Education Ministry has been making a fuss about increasing female directors," Mori said.
"If I say too much, the newspapers are going to write that I said bad things, but I heard somebody say that if we are to increase the number of female board members, we have to regulate speaking time to some extent, or else we'll never be able to finish. I am not going to say who said that," he continued.
"We have about seven women on our (Olympic) committee," Mori said. "They are experienced in international arenas. That's why their talk is sophisticated, gets to the point, and they are very useful."
Mori's comments quickly drew criticism on social media. "His comments run counter to the spirit of Olympics that denounces discrimination and calls for friendship, solidarity and fairness," Renho, a lawmaker with the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, said in a tweet.
His comments were also met with outrage overseas, with news media widely reporting the incident.
In an article titled, "Tokyo Olympics Chief Suggests Limits for Women at Meetings," The New York Times said, "Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics, already facing rising costs and significant public opposition to this summer's games, faced a new furor after the president of the Tokyo organizing committee suggested women talk too much in meetings."
The Washington Post in its article described Mori as a former prime minister with a "history of offensive remarks." The Post went on to report that "some members of the committee reportedly laughed at Mori's remarks" in a nod to his assessment of women.