Interview with Hon. Diana DeGette of the U.S. House of Representatives

We interviewed Hon. Diana DeGette of the U.S. House of Representatives, a Co-Chair of the 8-member bipartisan Congressional delegation that visited Japan in February 2017 under a program promoting the exchange of Japanese and U.S. parliamentarians. Hon. DeGette, who has a political career spanning over 20 years, was born in Japan, and expressed her sense of attachment to Japan in this interview. We asked her views on the current status of women's empowerment and the significance of Japan - U.S. exchange programs.

Interview Summary:

―What are your impressions of the women you have met thus far in Japan? Do you find any differences between the U.S. and Japan?.

To be successful in business or in government in Japan, women have to be very strong. Women I have met who are at the high levels of Japanese society have very clear perspectives on what they want to do. Japanese society has been so traditional. To break out of that, it's taken endless efforts. In my country, we still have many of the same challenges. In Japan, for example, you have maternal leave when a baby is born. We don't have that at the federal level in the United States. We like to think we have so many women in our Congress, but we have less than 20%. We share many of the challenges Japanese women have.

―Prime Minister Abe has emphasized women's empowerment as one element of his growth strategy.

It's important for women to be fully integrated in the workforce, especially with the aging of the population and with declining birth rates in this country. For "Womenomics" to be successful, you will have to have very strong programs for childcare and for eldercare. Traditionally in Japan, women have been the source of family care. If you don't have strong programs for that, even if a woman wants to work in an executive position, she can't.

―During your run for congressional office and in becoming a congresswoman, there must have been many hardships and difficulties you faced. Can you share your strategies to overcoming those difficulties?.

The first thing is that you have to get a fully supportive spouse. My husband, who I met when I was in law school, was the person who encouraged me to run for political office. He took a very strong role in raising our daughters. I could not have done that without the active support of my husband. The second thing is that women should have faith in their own abilities to do things. You just have to say to yourself, "I think I can do this."

―Since you were born in Tachikawa, Japan, do you have a personal attachment to Japan?

I do feel a strong personal relationship to Japan. I've led many official trips here and I have also come here on my own. One of the most satisfying aspects is to bring my colleagues and have them fall in love with Japan just as much as I love Japan. That's very satisfying and something I enjoy very much.

―The Sasakawa Peace Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan and private organization that provides various programs for society without any political constraint. What are your expectations for our role?

I think the SPF has been a very important catalyst in bringing Japanese parliamentarians and the business community together with U.S. members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, and our staffs both here in Japan and also at home in the United States. Whenever I lead a trip to Japan, it always strengthens Congressional relationships across the aisle, as well as the Japan - U.S. relationships. It is very special. I really think that only a non-partisan private convenor like Sasakawa could achieve that.


Play the video below for a full interview with Hon. Diana DeGette of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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