lifestyle

Getting more women in the Japanese boardroom

18 Comments
By Deborah Hayden for EURObiZ Japan

Take the ratio 3.1%. It represents the share of board seats held by women in Japanese companies, according to a 2014 survey by Catalyst, a leading non-profit organisation focused on expanding opportunities for women and business. Norway leads the way with 35.5% of board seats, the UK 22.8%, and the US 19.2%.

A new corporate governance code published in March by the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Financial Services Agency is a step in the right direction. It includes a principle on Ensuring Diversity and Including Participation of Women: “Companies should recognise that the existence of diverse perspectives and values reflecting a variety of experiences, skills, and characteristics, is a strength that supports their sustainable growth. As such, companies should promote diversity of personnel, including the active participation of women.”

While these measures are not mandatory, when they are introduced later this year, firms are expected to comply or explain why they cannot.

In the spirit of this new corporate governance code, adding women to the board can be done in either of two ways: one would be to appoint women as independent board directors, such as the current ANA independent director, Izumi Kobayashi, former President of Merrill Lynch Japan and Executive Vice President of the World Bank. However, how many Izumi Kobayashis are there? Not enough to go round all the listed companies in Japan (the Tokyo Stock Exchange alone has 2,292 listed firms).

The other way is to promote from within. This will require raising the number of women managers at Japanese companies, in order to have a pool of talented internal candidates from which to choose.

With Womenomics a core part of Abenomics, the government has set an ambitious target to have women occupying 30% of senior managerial roles by 2020, in order to boost the domestic economy. The economics makes sense. A 2012 IMF Report noted that Japan could increase its per capita gross domestic product by nearly 10% simply by increasing the number of women in the workforce to the levels seen in northern Europe. Current female participation in the Japanese labour force is only 63%. It’s 76% in Norway.

However, in order to raise the number of women at managerial levels in companies here, the first challenge is reducing the number of women who drop out of the workforce — or making it easier for them to re-enter the workforce. In 2010, the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications published a survey of why Japanese women were not participating in the workforce. Housework was cited by 34% of respondents, while 14% said working hours. When women in Japan have their first child, 70% of them stop working for a decade or more, compared with just 30% in countries like the US. Many of the 70% are gone for good.

In 2012, women made up 77% of Japan’s part-time and temporary workforce.

How can Japan reduce the number of women dropping out of the workforce and entice those who left for child-rearing reasons to get back in? In an ACCJ Viewpoint, we asked the government to:

Expand after-school care programmes to include children from years 4 to 6 (and to 8:00 p.m.), thereby allowing women to accept management positions that they may otherwise turn down.

Adopt more flexible immigration laws to allow for home help for families.

The Abe government has already stated an objective is to improve preschool childcare facilities, one of the biggest drawbacks to women returning to the workforce. However there is work to be done. Temporary labour contracts need to be overhauled, as does the current practice of overtime. These measures will benefit not only women, but also men.

Ultimately, as more firms begin to see the benefits of having a greater number of women in management — and therefore more board candidates — the resulting economic growth may benefit Japan as a whole.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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Damn, I thought it said BEDroom. Well, they're probably spending too much time TRYING to get into the BOARDroom, they " Don't have TIME " for anything else...too bad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While these measures are not mandatory, when they are introduced later this year, firms are expected to comply or explain why they cannot.

And then after same fluff of explanation, things will stay EXACTLY the same.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

Rather than worrying about getting more women in the board room, this country first needs to worry about stopping more women and their children from falling into poverty.

4 ( +8 / -5 )

This is Japan. Japan is incapable of change....unless it is forced on them by the outside world.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Ha, first you have to get them out of the tea serving jobs, and up the corporate ladder.. That's gonna take a while...

2 ( +6 / -4 )

How about just having the best person for the job?

10 ( +12 / -3 )

Ask Japanese women first, then set agenda.

Take the ratio 3.1%. It represents the share of board seats held by women in Japanese companies, according to a 2014 survey by Catalyst, a leading non-profit organisation focused on expanding opportunities for women and business. Norway leads the way with 35.5% of board seats, the UK 22.8%, and the US 19.2%.

http://www.catalyst.org/

http://www.catalyst.org/regions/japan

Regional Contacts. Emily Wakeling

Executive Director, Global Membership, phone: +81 (0)3 6860 8450

Media Contact: Susan Nierenberg

Vice President, Global Marketing & Corporate Communications, +1 646 388 7744

I am not sure if they represent women in Japan in any way.

There are thousands of women's right organizations in Japan. I think they deserves more media attention.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

A 2012 IMF Report noted that Japan could increase its per capita gross domestic product by nearly 10% simply by increasing the number of women in the workforce to the levels seen in northern Europe

This would take a seismic shift in the paradigm.

There are still two million Japanese women who want to work, but can't because of lack of childcare, etc.

Schools also create far too much work for parents (read mothers) with piddling, low-value but high time-cost bureaucracy & activities.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

SenseNotSoCommonMay. 27, 2015 - 09:49AM JST

A 2012 IMF Report noted that Japan could increase its per capita gross domestic product by nearly 10% simply by increasing the number of women in the workforce to the levels seen in northern Europe

By the way, there is a joke about GDP calculation that if every house wife does the house works of her next door neighbor and receives money in the same amount that she has to pay to the next door neighbor for her house works, GDP increases by the total amount of money exchanged. The problem is no one gets any better economically in spite of increase in GDP. The IMF report just reminded me of the joke.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It'll happen at some point, but not in the next 10 years or so. Men's thinking on the subject definitely needs to change, but I think Japanese women are also equally complicit in the slow rate of change - they need to step up and not sit around and wait for change

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Take the ratio 3.1%. It represents the share of board seats held by women in Japanese companies...

This stat speaks for itself, but the overriding issue extends much further than gender. Corp J lacks a merit system of advancement. Realistically, I had calculated the only way I would be able to achieve a position responsible for planning and executing a series of strategic business goals would be to form or purchase a small medium sized business. To accumulate funding deficiency, will require emigrating to a country that predominantly fosters a culturally inclusive mindset and a flexible merit based system of education and employment.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

ProbieMAY. 27, 2015 - 09:49AM JST How about just having the best person for the job?

Because in the very long history of discriminatory business practices there is a long and strong tradition of some dishonest people in the privileged position pretending that people in the privileged classes are "the best person for the job" on the basis of how much they superficially resemble other people in the privileged class.

The moment discriminatory practices get entrenched, then just taking people's word that "no really, I'm not discriminating, it's just entirely coincidental that all our best people for the job are from my group" just doesn't cut it anymore.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

In order to get more women in the boardroom, you're going to need a significant number of women who WANT to be in the boardroom, and then choose the most qualified from that bunch.

Good luck with that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Ha, first you have to get them out of the tea serving jobs, and up the corporate ladder.. That's gonna take a while...

Right. Then there are those old fashioned expectations like cooking, cleaning and raising children. That's gona take a while longer.

3.1% is a pathetic stat. Especially when compared with the rest of the modern world. But if you know Japan, it's not so surprising.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

People are living in fear and are terrified of change. They will not ask for a single day off even to save their own lives. It's just too frightening - what might happen. It's probably best to accept the shrinking economy and impoverishing and/or shrinking power of the next generation for the comfort of today's elderly. Probably they can be convinced that it's their own fault and the previous generation were just better. Then they can accept what's coming more easily. But they are already primed as many already work to pay off their parents debts.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

with womenomics as the core of Abenomics (a term that has apparently fallen out of favor as we hear it less and less) Is really a joke.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Probie

How about just having the best person for the job?

The answer right there folks! What's to discuss?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Getting more women in the Japanese boardroom

Force all companies to pay maternity leave. Encourage women to develop career aspirations beyond being a housewife. Provide more daycare facilities (and ignore the elderly who complain about their noise) If these points are addressed, there might be a shot at getting more women into company management

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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