White House advisor and daughter of President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, has urged nations to reverse a decline of women working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) during a Tokyo speech just two days ahead of her father's first visit to Asia as president.
“Women today represent only 13 percent of engineers and 24 percent of Computer Science professionals, down from 35 percent in 1990,” said Trump on Friday at the World Assembly for Women. “We must create equal participation in these traditionally male-dominated sectors of our economy, which are among the fastest-growing and most lucrative industries in the world.”
Trump said more support was needed for women's participation in the high-tech economy, part of her portfolio as advisor to President Trump.
“Countries like the United States and Japan cannot be complacent,” she said. “We must continue to champion reforms in our own countries while also empowering women in restricted economies.”
WATCH: Ivanka Trump on Women's Participation in STEM Fields
Trump was invited to speak at the event by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as part of the Japanese leader’s effort to “create a society where women shine.”
But in the five years Abe has been in power, he is accused by critics of accomplishing little for women. Less than four percent of business executives and fourteen percent of lawmakers are women. Japan slipped thirteen spots in the World Economic Forum's 2017 Global Gender Gap report to rank 114 out of 144 nations.
Abe launched a "Womenomics" program to get more women to join the workforce by providing, among other things, better childcare.
"We've put our full strength into creating an environment where it's easy for women to work," Abe said in an opening address to the conference. "I really feel that Japan has come a long way.”
Japan is struggling to emerge from a patriarchal society, says Montana State University’s anthropology associate professor, Tomomi Yamaguchi, who researches women’s issues in Japan.
“It’s very difficult to see improvement. But, then the government has been saying that they have been promoting to change the peoples’ opinions and consciousness. But, without the system changing it’s very difficult to change people’s attitude toward the issue.”
The two-day conference was extended by a day to include the speech by Trump, considered one of the U.S. president’s most trusted advisors.
Yamaguchi said Trump’s participation was a good way for Abe to make a closer connection to President Trump and try to improve Japan’s image on women. “He’s really trying to promote the image of Japan as the society that is promoting women’s rights and more participation in society. And, very likely because Japan has been criticized for not addressing the issue of ‘comfort women’ and all those wartime violence against women issues,” she added.
Japanese conservatives have downplayed the country’s role in forcing women in occupied territories into sexual slavery for soldiers during World War Two.
President Trump on Sunday arrives in Japan, the first stop of a five-nation Asia tour that continues to South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The main focus of Trump’s trip is to show solidarity with allies facing down the missile and nuclear threats from North Korea, which has defied the international community by testing its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb in September.
“Aside from that, I think that Trump is here to show the region that America is not pulling away, is not disengaged,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo. “I think he did send a message of America pulling out when he decided to pull the plug on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal). And so I think that that raised a lot of concerns around the region about the reliability of the United States. And, certainly his erratic behavior since then has raised those anxieties,” he added.
At a United Nations speech in September, Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies.
South Korea’s spy agency on Thursday said Pyongyang could be preparing to conduct another nuclear or missile test after spotting activity near test sites.
Two U.S. bombers accompanied by fighter jets from Japan and South Korea conducted drills Thursday ahead of Trump’s visit near the Korean peninsula.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA called the exercise a “nuclear strike drill.”
While Trump and Abe support a tougher line against Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been pushing for diplomacy. Seoul and Beijing agreed this week to set aside disagreement over a U.S. missile defense system deployed to South Korea and hold a summit meeting in Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend.
Trump will be in Seoul Tuesday to meet with Moon and give a speech on Wednesday at South Korea’s unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, before heading to China.