career women in Japan

The NY Times has a front page piece on the status of working women in Japan. I was trying to find a short portion to quote, but I failed. I think it will take a significant change in the financial status of Japan before Japan will force change that will allow women to rise higher in business. Right now Japan does not have to change, so while it looks bad in the future, at present there’s not enough pressure to change.

If Japan fell to the same rank as it’s current standing on the United Nations Development Program’s “’gender empowerment measure,’ an index of female participation in a nation’s economy and politics” which is to say 42nd among 75 nations surveyed in 2006, then I’m sure there’d be too much pressure not to give de facto and not just de jure equal rights to women.

In 1985, women held just 6.6 percent of all management jobs in Japanese companies and government, according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency. By 2005, that number had risen to only 10.1 percent, though Japan’s 27 million working women made up nearly half of its work force. By contrast, women held 42.5 percent of managerial jobs in the United States in 2005, the organization said.

Experts on women’s issues say outright prejudice is only part of Japan’s problem. An even bigger barrier to the advancement of women is the nation’s notoriously demanding corporate culture, particularly its expectation of morning-to-midnight work hours.

Government statistics show that many women drop out of management-track jobs when they reach their late 20s and early 30s and start having children. As Japan’s birthrate rapidly declines and its population ages, there are growing concerns that Japan can ill afford to lose so much potential.

“If expected to work 15 hours a day, then most women will give up,” said Kuniko Inoguchi, a former cabinet minister in charge of gender equality. “Japan is losing half of its brainpower as it faces a labor shortage.”

Even with cases of blatant discrimination, lawsuits remain rare because of a cultural aversion to litigation. Another big problem has been that the equal opportunity law is essentially toothless. Despite two revisions, the law includes no real punishment for companies that continue to discriminate. The worst that the Labor Ministry can do is to threaten to publish the names of violators, and the ministry has never done that. As a result, Japan ranks as the most unequal of the world’s rich countries, according to the United Nations Development Program’s “gender empowerment measure,” an index of female participation in a nation’s economy and politics. The country placed 42nd among 75 nations surveyed in 2006 — just above Macedonia and far below other developed nations like the United States, ranked 12th, and top-ranked Norway.

Career Women in Japan Find a Blocked Path – New York Times

6 replies on “career women in Japan”

I always wonder about that. Clearly, there are a lot of brilliant people here but you pretty much have to give up any semblance of a life to appear “diligent” and it obviously takes a toll over the long-term on creativity.

I’ve noticed local “Bento” stores are busy at around 10 PM and I was surprised to learn many of the customers are not buying breakfast or TV dinner but are having their supper at that late time, because they work until 10PM even skipping dinner. That certainly doesn’t look like a good life to me.

This is an artifact of Japanese culture developed over many hundreds or thousands of years, and as such expecting it to be discarded over a short handful of decades is foolish. Economic disruption CAN speed change (although not always in the right direction!), but it’s obviously not the only driver for cultural modification, nor is it a necessary driver. It’s merely one of a number of potential catalysts.
But ask yourself this: how much traditional Japanese-ness can be eliminated before Japan is transformed into a group of ethnic Japanese with fully Westernized cultural values, and is that a desirable outcome?

i think on average woman professionals at “gaishi” (foreign capital) firms are far more better than those at the domestic in Japan. Relatively speaking, a lot more opportunities and rewards are available to them at gaishi.

The women have to want it. As a female entrepeneur said in another recent article, if Japanese women do not vocalize a desire for change and opportunities, it won’t happen. And currently, for better or worse, and for whatever reason, a majority of Japanese women are happy with their side of the social bargain.

Are these mainly Japanese business women or Gaijin (foreign) who have increased jobs?
Are there jobs for English speaking women, aside from English teaching in Japan–or is this unheard of?

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