The world has one more woman leader thanks to a historic election in Tokyo.

On Aug. 1, 2016, Tokyo made history by electing Yuriko Koike, its first female governor.

Koike is a groundbreaking political veteran with cabinet experience who ran for a head of state position in 2008. Sound familiar?


Tokyo is with her. Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.

Not only was this a big win for her (she defeated her closest opponent by over a million votes), but it's also a huge win for Tokyo, a city that doesn't have the greatest track record on women's rights.

"Hillary used the word 'glass ceiling,'" Koike said in 2008. "But in Japan, it isn't glass, it's an iron plate."

This isn't Koike's first tussle with that iron plate. She served previously as Tokyo's first female defense chief and launched a campaign in 2008 to become Japan's first woman prime minister.

When it comes to politics, the first thing on Koike's to-do list is making Tokyo better for women.

She wants to overcome the massive childcare shortages plaguing the city, and enact policies that ensure "both women and men can shine in Tokyo."

Koike drinking tea with former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images.

She's also made a point of praising other female world leaders, including Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and most recently, Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's newly-elected female president.

Koike is a vocal critic of North Korea and a green candidate with a focus on the environment. She served as Japan's environment minister from 2003 to 2005, where she took creative approaches to energy conservation, such as a widely adopted program encouraging male businessmen not to wear suit jackets to work (so that office air conditioners could be comfortably turned down.)

She also cosplayed once as Sally the Witch, which is just kind of awesome:

Among her biggest responsibilities as governor will be helping to shape up Tokyo's 2020 Olympic hosting duties, which are currently wrapped in multiple corruption scandals.

Like any politician, she's not without a few controversial opinions.

Most notably, she was endorsed by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, an organization that seeks to revise history textbooks by downplaying Japan's involvement in war crimes and human trafficking during WWII.

In an op-ed voicing her support for textbook reform, she claimed that shifting national focus away from the antagonisms of the past would help avoid the wars of the future. It's a nice sentiment, but there's just something about George Santayana's quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," that rings just a bit truer.

Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images.

When she takes office, Koike will be one of only three women serving in a gubernatorial position in Japan.

Currently, only about 12% of parliament seats in Japan are held by women. And according to the Global Gender Gap Report, the country is ranked 101 out of 145 in terms of gender equality.

That's why her victory is so important. Change doesn't happen instantly, it happens one step at a time, one election at a time, one vote at a time. When women are in politics and are elected to prominent positions of power, the world sees the benefits.

Koike with Yukari Sato and Kuniko Inoguchi, two other female lawmakers in Tokyo. Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

Science agrees. When women are elected, gender gaps close, productivity increases, and most importantly, the world gets female role models — which leads to more women in politics and positions of power.

Now, millions of women and men in Tokyo, are living in a city that has one more female leader. She may not be perfect, and she may not solve all of Tokyo's problems, but no candidate is or could. What's important is that she's the first, and she won't be the last. Not to mention, the neat thing about barriers is they never become unbroken.

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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