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DIVI@Sony: Progress to Date and Challenges for the Future

DIVI@Sony: Progress to Date and Challenges for the Future

DIVI@Sony*is a Sony Group-wide project initiated and run by employees in Japan. It promotes Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) by identifying issues that employees feel from their own perspectives and work to resolve on their own initiative. The main activities aim to deepen the members' own understanding of D&I, raise employee awareness, and provide feedback to management on the real opinions of front-line employees to encourage proposals for improving systems and the workplace environment. The following introduces the history of DIVI@Sony from its inception to the present, and our vision for future activities.

  • *DIVI@Sony" is an abbreviation for Diversity Initiative for Value Innovation at Sony

Initial phase: Launch gender-focused project

DIVI@Sony was launched as a project for promoting diversity under the direct control of the President*in July 2005. Twenty members were selected from a variety of departments belonging to the Sony Group in Japan. Initially, it focused on gender, specifically initiatives to promote participation among female employees. We conducted interviews and awareness surveys of female employees and management to understand the actual status of gender differences in career development and promotion within the company. This process enabled us to tackle matters relating to human resources development, communications, and work-life balance, and launch bottom-up activities based on commitments from the President. Three measures were adopted: roundtable discussions to raise understanding and awareness of the issues faced by female employees aspiring to management; seminars and training to support the formation of networks among female management; and roundtables to enlighten management. In 2007, the "DIVI Managers Meeting" was held for female managers in the Sony Group in Japan. Ryoji Chubachi, then President and Electronics CEO, opened the event with a speech on Sony's future prospects and diversity. At the time, many companies had just begun implementing measures to promote the advancement of women, and there was little information available to serve as a reference, so members began by searching for the most appropriate activities.

  • *President of Current Sony Group Corporation. The same applies below

We also collaborated proactively with the HR department and made recommendations. In 2007, DIVI@Sony's proposal to double the number of female managers in five years was approved as an HR activity target. A mentoring system for developing female management was also proposed. Participants from DIVI@Sony started by holding mentoring trials with Sony executives. After the trials proved to be effective, mentoring was put into practice as an HR measure targeting a wider range of personnel. The former Diversity Development Department was established within HR in 2008 to specialize in promoting diversity. Efforts to promote female advancement further by deepening cooperation with this organization were subsequently accelerated.

DIVI Managers' Meeting
Activities report to Chubachi, former President and CEO of Sony Electronics
(There were 20 female managers when DIVI@Sony was launched)

Consolidation: Expanded range of activities and enhanced work-life balance support schemes

Roundtable discussions for female employees were held right from the start, before being expanded to include a wider range of target groups, ensuring that employees' opinions were used to enlighten management and look into diversifying work styles. Since 2009, we have focused on workshops for general managers and senior managers to provide a forum for discussion on career support for female subordinates. Participating general managers commented: "It is a good thing that these activities are run by front-line members rather than HR;" and "These activities are persuasive and convincing because they directly reflect employees' opinions.

We also initiated activities aimed at improving the work-life balance and work styles. Since very few companies in Japan were addressing the question of work style reforms at the time, we were still going through a trial-and-error process. We started with an employee questionnaire on "no-overtime days" to understand their awareness and actual work style conditions. We recommended reviewing working methods to revitalize employees. We also interviewed female employees with preschool children, and their supervisors and subordinates, and raised the issue of the need for work styles that allow employees to fulfill their potential efficiently, regardless of time or place, in reports on annual activities at meetings with top management. As a result, proposals to improve and expand the system to support the balance between work and family life were institutionalized as HR policy.

Roundtable discussion
on careers
Senior Managers' Workshop

Transformation: Expanding the scope of DIVI@Sony beyond gender matters

Sony Corporation drew up its Diversity Statement during DIVI@Sony's ninth year in 2013. This clear commitment to promoting diversity throughout the Sony Group demonstrates that DIVI@Sony is one of Sony's high priorities. The DIVI Women's Forum held in 2013 provided an opportunity for Sony to deliver a direct message. Kazuo Hirai, then President and CEO (current Senior Advisor, Sony Group Cooperation), took the stage and committed to making the promotion of diversity one of the Group's overall management policies and supporting female employee career development. During a Q&A session with top management, a request for advice on how women can better demonstrate their abilities elicited the response: "I want women to be proactive in stepping forward and speaking their minds. People promoted within the organization should be capable of clearly presenting their own opinions. Bosses who don't notice things are a problem, but we also need women to make the effort," replied the then-executive who was acting as an advisor to DIVI@Sony. The dialog with top management was heard by a total of around 650 female employees, including those listening to the live broadcast from the Atsugi office and the approximately 500 people attending the event.

From its tenth anniversary year in 2015, DIVI@Sony broadened its scope of activities to include issues faced by non-Japanese employees and male employees balancing work and childcare. Employees from diverse backgrounds exchanged opinions at a workshop on balancing work and childcare and a workshop on supporting the career development of non-Japanese employees. A "DIVI@Sony Town Hall Meeting" was also held on the theme of utilizing the system for supporting the work-childcare balance. Themes such as balancing work with caregiving were added in 2016, and numerous other policies and recommendations have been added since.

Former President and CEO Hirai delivering his message at the DIVI Women's Forum
Female employees at DIVI Women's Forum session

Expansion: Member recruitment begins and activities intensify

So far, DIVI@Sony members had been selected from their workplaces, but open recruitment now began. Aspiring participants joined because they wanted to contribute to the company by working to solve internal issues as members. One of the appeals of such projects is that employees from various workplaces and backgrounds can participate and work on themes that differ from their duties, allowing them to build internal networks and directly interact with top management.

The current project owner is Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman, President and CEO of Sony Group Corporation. There are 19 participants, including non-Japanese members. Activity reports to Yoshida are submitted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but members not only make recommendations based on the findings of their activities, but also actively seek advice from Yoshida on their activities to achieve higher-level activities. Although DIVI@Sony is a domestic project, Yoshida's advice led us to expand beyond Japan the benchmarking of Sony Group company D&I promotion activities conducted by HR to include DIVI@Sony activities.

One of DIVI@Sony's missions is to help participating members deepen their own understanding of diversity. In order to understand what diversity is, why it should be promoted, and what DIVI@Sony can do to help, we are each deepening our understanding in our own way by reading wide-ranging literature and case studies to broaden our knowledge and discussing among ourselves. As our understanding deepens, we develop ideas for measures we want to implement, increasing our motivation to engage in activities. Then, after the measures are actually implemented, we obtain feedback from participants, creating a positive cycle of further deepening our understanding.

The FY20 Annual Activities Meeting held online.
Yoshida, Chairman, President and CEO, is seen in the upper left corner of the screen
Kickoff Meeting (April 8, 2019)

In the future, employment patterns and work styles in Japanese society will diversify further, companies will be required to develop systems to support the work-life balance and create an organizational culture where such systems are completely justifiable. Looking at the world at large, companies existing amidst advancing globalization must foster a work environment where global human resources do not feel barriers and develop management approaches that draw out the best abilities of diverse human resources. DIVI@Sony will continue its efforts to create an inclusive workplace that is easy and rewarding to work in, where employees can balance life events and careers, and where everyone, including those with diverse backgrounds and experiences, can make the most of their full potential.

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