Sumitomo Electric Group's business had its starting point in the electric wire manufacturing that stemmed from the House of Sumitomo's copper business. Over the years, the Group's business has diversified, as we developed and combined electric wire-related technologies such as insulation, wiredrawing, conduction and transmission, in line with the needs of society and the times.
In terms of geographical locations and human resources, the Group has also diversified since establishing its first overseas corporation in 1969. Today, we operate in over 30 countries and areas around the world, with some 180,000 consolidated Group employees, about 80% of whom are non-Japanese. Even within Japan, personnel diversification is progressing rapidly: we have an increasing number of non-Japanese employees, including individuals who have graduated from Japanese universities. Also, Sumiden Friend, Ltd. was established in 2008 to promote the employment of mentally or physically disabled persons.
Diversity is somewhat of a buzzword today, but it is indeed an important notion. When diversity is cherished in the workplace, people of various backgrounds can demonstrate their abilities to the fullest, complementing each other, encouraging each other and creating vitality. To realize such workplaces, institutional arrangements are not the only requirements. Individual members must also transform their awareness.
Speaking of individual awareness, I had a very encouraging experience the other day. I attended the presentation of reports that concluded our new training program, the Global Leadership Program. Until last year, the program was intended only for non-Japanese executives of overseas Group companies, however, it was renewed this year to also include Japanese administrative members.
The program participants, divided into small groups, summed up their discussions in proposals for top management regarding corporate management in the global age. I was pleased to learn that each group - comprising members of various nationalities and work duties - underwent the difficult yet stimulating process of summarizing and presenting the results of their discussions within a limited time, and by the end of the program ended up opening up to each other and getting to know each other better. As a result, everyone had a pleasant time together at the closing party. I was also pleased to hear non-Japanese participants say that the training gave them a deeper and firsthand understanding of the Sumitomo Electric Group Corporate Principles and the Sumitomo Spirit as represented by the concepts "banji nissei," "shinyo kakujitsu" and "fusu furi" ("do your sincere best not only in business, but in every aspect of your life," "place importance on integrity and sound management" and "do not act rashly or carelessly in pursuit of easy gains").
I was told that nowadays the expression "salad bowl" is preferred over "melting pot" to refer to places like the United States where there is a great diversity of people, in that lettuce, cabbage, tomato and all other ingredients maintain their originality in a salad bowl.
I would very much like to see the Sumitomo Electric Group grow into a Glorious Excellent Company in a great salad bowl of the Sumitomo Spirit, in which all employees can demonstrate their originality and abilities to the fullest.