Recent poll by Reuters revealed that women remain underrepresented in high-level management positions in Japanese companies. With three-quarters firms have no female senior executives, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Womenomics” measure seems to be undergoing an uphill battle.
Aiming at advancing female economic empowerment, Abe has promoted the significance of bringing more women into the workforce and assigning them into leadership roles. He expects to see the proportion of female senior executives at listed firms rise up to 10 percent by 2020 and the number in management climb to 30 percent.
Japan has been struggling with its poor report on gender equality, including in the workplace. Recently, the issue of discrimination against women has reemerged as a hot topic of debate across the country after an investigation into a Tokyo medical school found last month that it had lowered women applicants’ entrance exam scores for years. This practice was done because it believed too many women quit their careers after having children.
According to the Reuters Corporate Survey, the vast majority employers say that women account for less than 10 percent of C-Suite positions. At three-quarters of companies, the figure was less than 10 percent and at 15 percent of firms, there were even no women in the management level.
Japanese companies also tend to hire men at a higher rate than women, the survey found. Men who got jobs accounted for more than half of all applicants at 43 percent of companies that hired new graduates this year, while women who were accepted made up over half the applicants at only 20 percent of businesses.
Interestingly, despite the low numbers of women’s involvement in the higher management roles, nearly all companies said their hiring policy was not to discriminate candidates based on their gender. In fact, firms in traditionally masculine sectors such as construction and metalwork said they did not have many female applicants.
Responding on the findings, some respondents argued that for more women to join senior corporate ranks, Japan needs to create an environment that is supportive and conducive for women to pursue careers.
“The number will increase naturally if we create a system that allows women to remain in work even after having children and by nurturing capable employees regardless of sex,” a manager of a services company wrote in the survey.
Japan lags well behind other major industrialized nations when it comes to gender equality, ranking 114th of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap report.
More women have joined the workforce in Japan, though many are part-time workers. Some 66 percent of Japanese women were working in 2016, OECD data shows, compared with 56.7 percent in 2000.