The gender gap problem in Japan’s business and political sector remains real today, five years after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his "Womenomics" initiative. What’s happening and how can Japan reverse the trend?
On the surface, the situation doesn’t look particularly bad: Japanese female labor participation surpasses the United States for the first time in history, according to data by the OECD. The Japanese government has set up incentive programs to subsidize companies that promote women’s participation in the workforce. Yuriko Koike became the first woman to be elected governor of Tokyo. Looking just at these “results,” you start believing that Abe’s "Womenomics "policies are going well, but a closer investigation reveals issues lurking below the surface.
'Womenomics': The Master Plan
"Womenomics" is a term coined by Kathy Matsui, vice chair and chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs Japan, which refers to theories examining how the advancement of women in business and society links to increased development rates. In simple terms, countries where women have equal status in government, work and social standing, tend to do better economically. This also works with smaller-scale businesses. In results of a study done by the Catalyst group, companies with more women on their boards outperformed companies with exclusively male board members.
With Japan facing increasing economic pressure due to its aging population, one of the cornerstones of Abe’s financial growth strategy, Abenomics, has been creating policies to encourage more women to join the workforce, in order to jumpstart economic growth — a 15% growth in Japan’s GDP being the ultimate goal.
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