Webinar women – this is your time to shine!

By Priti Donnelly

I believe that Japan’s work culture has failed to keep pace with the changes in society. A few decades ago, most women quit their jobs and raised a family after they got married, after which their husbands became the sole breadwinner, often working long hours.

Then, coinciding with the end of Japan’s economic boom in the 1990s, there was a significant demographic shift. Japan’s birth rate no longer exceeded the death rate, so the population started to shrink as the population got older. There were not enough salarymen to fill all the positions in the labour market. This led to a lot more temporary workers taking up jobs, including many women.

Undervalued women

Unfortunately, it seems that women are often regarded as the lesser valued gender in the eyes of some employers. In 2018, men in Japan earned nearly twice as much as women on average.

The following year, Japan ranked low on the World Economic Forum’s gender-gap rankings – 121st among 153 countries. And in 2018, women held only 15 percent of senior and leadership positions in the business field, which put Japan in last place among developed countries.

Working from home

However, coronavirus is shaking up the business environment. Working from home has become common and as a result many people in Japan and other countries are relieved to avoid long hours in the office and stressful communtes. Many women say it has helped to create a better balance between their work and their home lives, and this has been especially helpful for those who are caring for children or the elderly.

Japan’s digital transformation minister Takuya Hirai has said working from home will enable more women to take part in conference calls and webinars.  

Because of the work from home flexibility, women can use their professional skills to act as consultants, train, manage, multi-task and get things done in responsible, leadership positions. There is no reason for their gender to be a handicap. 

More to do

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recognized the need for more women in the workplace. However, his promise to fill 30% of leadership positions nationwide with women has not been fulfilled. 

I believe there are other steps that can be taken. Employers need to challenge bias in the hiring process. And Japanese schools and universities should encourage girls and young women to study science, or prepare themselves for managerial roles. 

Only through vigorous action can Japan start moving in the right direction towards gender equality for the next generation.

Priti Donnelly is the sales and marketing manager at Nippon Tradings International, helping foreigners access the Japanese real estate market. She is based in Toronto, Canada.