Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Career Women In Japan Find A Blocked Path": NYT

An article in the August 6 New York Times provides a useful update on women in management positions in Japan. Useful in particular as supplementary material for Anne Allison's Nightwork, her ethnography on the sararimen of Japan.

Here are some key excerpts:

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...

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 [passed in 1985] is essentially toothless. Despite two revisions, the law includes no real punishment for companies that continue to discriminate...

Still, women’s rights advocates say that the realities of Japan’s shrinking population are slowly forcing change. They say the need to find talented workers has pushed a small but growing number of companies to make more efforts to hire women as “sogo shoku,” or career-track employees, in line for management. Some analysts estimate that about a quarter of career-track hires in recent years have been women.

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