Japanese women and business

It is reported that nearly 60% of Japanese women holding corporate career leave after their marriage.  The percentage of career women with children retiring from their job is 70%. These are astounding numbers compared to the ones in developed countries. Japanese women are still following Japanese tradition of becoming good wives to raise children and take care of their husbands. But is that it? Japanese women are just following the cultural norms..or maybe there is more to this story.

Since I worked in Japan for a little while after graduating from college in the US, I can be biased towards this particular subject. It is nearly impossible for women to hold a corporate job while raising children. Since my dad worked for a traditional Japanese corporation, I grew up seeing my dad working at least 80 hours a week.  He eventually moved up the ladder and became the executive. I am so proud of him but his long hours often worried us. I wrote about typical Japanese work hours in my previous posting. Of course you are a contractor getting an hourly wage, the law mandates Japanese employers to pay the overtime but since my father was an exempt, his salaries were fixed even if he works 24 hours without returning home! There are one or twice he didn’t come home when our town was hit by typhoon..But if you are a contractor getting paid hourly, you wouldn’t be subject to this harsh working hours. But what I witnessed growing up in Japan was that almost all full-time employees (seishain) are expected to work very long hours regardless of the field you are in. So how is woman supposed to excel in the male-dominated Japanese corporate world? Japanese career women are pretty much have no choice but to resign to shift the focus on her children and domestic chores after marriage. Of course this situation has improved over the past 3 decades and now more Japanese women are prioritizing their career before relationship and marriage. Part of the reason is because they know that they won’t be able to have everything to stay competitive in Japanese market.

The thing is that there are too many smart Japanese women who could have been the key to restoring Japan’s decades long economic stagnant. Another reason that leads to Japanese women’s decision to retire after marriage is silent pressure she gets from hiring manager, boss..and some men do ask insensitive questions to women who have just gotten married. These women are too smart to be kept at home. It is illegal but Japanese employers still ask whether their female candidates are married, or are getting married soon..and what their future goals are. Men could be the house wife but women are certainly pressured to retire from the company because company isn’t going to make accommodations for working mothers. Well, American companies don’t do that either.. lol but it is definitely much more stressful for Japanese wives to sustain her career or try to return to her workforce because of the prejudice and excessive working hours. This explains why so many women give up their career to take care of stuff around the house including childbearing. My friend was asking me if it was because Japanese women were “submissive” so they would need their men to support them. Maybe. That is quite possible since the Japanese corporate world is really designed for male employees. So why should any of these women sacrifice their special times with children to work for companies which don’t accommodate their needs.

Japanese Prime Minister seems to have been doing something to increase the number of intelligent women returning to the workforce or not retire the workforce by creating special programs. I have not been following Abe lately but it would be really nice if the institutionalized benefits can be given to women who are willing to work while raising children. And this will be the key factor to save the country out of stagnant economy. More and more influential and smart women are seeking opportunities and career advancement and this is a fantastic news. But I hope that they won’t be shot down by the system.

Japanese salarymen sleeping on the train. I don’t remember how many times I have seen the same..salarymen sleeping on the train..they are that tired. 🙁  I think the photo explains everything.

Japanese salary men on the train

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