Microsoft is committed to the use of technology to address gender inequality, as highlighted by a recent Memorandum of Understanding signed with UN Women in
July to strengthen efforts to drive social and economic transformation for women around the world. The commitment is being put into practice even in developed countries such as Japan, where Microsoft has taken significant steps to support disadvantaged women through the Unlimited Potential (UP) programme.

The third phase of Microsoft’s UP Programme for Disadvantaged Women was implemented in 2009 in partnership with the National Council of Women's Centres. The three-year Women UP Phase 3 programme is aimed at enhancing the self sustainability of socially and economically disadvantaged women in Japan by providing information and communication technology (ICT) skills training, as well as employment support at regional women-support centres across Japan.

“Working together with the National Council of Women's Centres, we see a great potential to empower the female population in Japan to become more assertive and equipped with the right skill set in order to improve their employment opportunities,” said Yumiko Ito, Assistant General Counsel at Microsoft. “The training courses under the Women UP Phase 3 are also aimed at improving computer literacy and basic ICT knowledge among disadvantaged women, which include single mothers, young women who are unemployed, and the less educated because of various social circumstances.”

Microsoft Japan plays a central role in equipping support centres with computers, developing the ICT capacities of the staff, as well as coordinating with government agencies and nonprofit groups to broaden the scope of the Women UP Phase 3 programme. Since 2009, more than 7,188 women have been trained as part of the programme, exceeding the initial targets.

A more holistic goal of Women UP Phase 3 is to expand the programme into a collaborative network, further empowering the women who have benefitted from the programme to share their mutual experiences and help those who face similar predicaments.

“Through the use of technology, I can communicate and connect with people around the world,” said a trainee of the Women UP Phase 3 programme. “This made me feel like I was not alone in my situation.”

“Through the Women UP Phase 3 programme, disadvantaged women were able to significantly broaden their employment opportunities, or to even start their own businesses.” - Yumiko Ito, Assistant General Counsel, Microsoft