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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?

July 31, 2012

A fellow blogger, Jean gave me a comment on the past entry ‘Diversity vs Divercity‘:

Honest, I wouldn’t want to be a university-educated Japanese woman if she would like to seriously apply her education in a full-time career that relates to her education and remain in Japan. I have read enough that there are serious barriers for Japanese women even now in the 21st century to rise through the management ranks in Japan.

So here is my thoughts about the point.

Flowers for Salary Man

As Jean correctly addressed, Japan is not a great country when it comes to the gender equality.

The traditional Corporate Japan is a male-dominated society, where the businessmen in a dark gray suite, or ‘Salary Man’ in Japanese-English, work in the office for 14 hours a day. A business unit is headed by a male alfa, the most senior man in the team.

Until recently, most of the women in the business were hired for an administrative role to support the male co-workers at work.  As the relationship in the office is more personal than the one in the US, employees go out for drinks together regularly, share hobbies after work or travel together on the weekend. It’s not uncommon for unmarried employees to find their date in the office. They get married eventually, and then the wife would leave the company to support her husband at home.

Female employees in the workforce were often called ‘office flowers’ – a nice decoration to light up the stressful and monotonous office space.

Off The Beaten Path

There is alternative path, that married and unmarried female professionals stay in the workforce to advance their career. But it’s not an easy path.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2011 by World Economic Forum ranked Japan at 98th position out of 135 countries researched. The top 3 countries are Iceland, Norway, and Finland. The United States is #17 followed by Canada in #18. Needless to say, Japan is among the lowest-ranking OECD countries.

The research covers various aspects of the gender issue, including the economic opportunity, education, health and survival and political empowerment. Among these indexes, the female-to-male ratio of ‘legislators, senior officials, and managers’ is 10%, ranked at 112th – Japan’s worst indicator of the gender equality.

To advance your career to the management level, you as a woman only has 10% opportunities in the already competitive top positions. In other word, you’ll need to outperform your male colleagues by 10 times. Yes, it’s not an easy path.

Up or Out

What if you were “a university-educated Japanese woman if she would like to seriously apply her education in a full-time career that relates to her education” but not in theat 10%? Well, Jean also gave me the answer for this question – she “wouldn’t want to […] remain in Japan.”

Japan is one of the most aging countries and the shrinking working population is becoming a social issue. It has been strongly recommended that, to counter the issue, Japan should promote women in the workforce. But the change is painfully slow.

On the weekend, I received an email from my female Japanese friend. She studied abroad and advanced her professional career, earning a high recognition in the domain. When came back to Japan, however, her qualification didn’t bring her any offer. There are little room for female professionals to advance her career in Japan. She said she was going to leave Japan to take an offer from a foreign organization. She choose to go ‘out.’

Today’s Quote

‘We are taught not to like ourselves as women, we are taught what we’re supposed to look like, what our measurements are supposed to be. I never hear what measurements men are supposed to be. Just women.’ by Cindy Lauper

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 13, 2012 8:36 am

    I seriously wonder when Japan will implement mechanisms to remind firms to hire Japanese female professionals in professional positions.

    And also change the workplace culture –it takes a longer time which includes setting human resource policies.

    Anyway, maybe one day some of your female Japanese professional colleagues will be courageous enough to even comment on this blog post.

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