Womenomics: How attending the British Japanese Parliamentary Group Annual Reception made me consider the role of women in Japan

for June, 2014

Womenomics: How attending the British Japanese Parliamentary Group Annual Reception made me consider the role of women in Japan

Posted on 21 June 2014 in Inter-Cultural Training, Market Insight, News, womenomics -
Traditional Japanese Dancers

I attended this reception at the House of Lords overlooking the river Thames in glorious sunshine. A fitting setting for such a wonderful gathering of people from the Japanese and British worlds of politics, business and culture. It was lovely to see such love and respect between our two countries yet still such differences in culture and traditions. We were entertained with some traditional Japanese dancing by old and young Japanese ladies dressed as geisha and maikos. My Japanese friend, who has trained in traditional dance, explained how the dances represented the seasons and how difficult they were to perform. To my eyes, the younger girl’s dance conveyed fragile beauty, modesty and a hint of submissiveness whereas the older ladies dance was somehow more powerful. Some of the older Japanese men watched attentively, respectful of the traditions as well as its representation of Japanese femininity. I am not sure the same reaction came from the British audience, although it was greatly appreciated.

It led me to wonder about the difference in gender roles between our two countries. Japan knows it is losing out economically with such low labour participation of its highly educated female workforce. The Government is putting “female friendly” incentives into place and has prioritised “womenomics”. This is being discussed on various levels; by brave Japanese women, by Western women who have grown up in very different cultural contexts and by politicians and business leaders, who need to support it. The lack of flexible working practices and recruitment processes that will support women rising to decision making positions needs to be addressed. It won’t help that the responsibilities of caring for an ageing population traditionally fall on women. A major shift in corporate culture may happen out of economic necessity. However there is still a long way to go to adapt deeply ingrained gender roles and expectations of female behaviour (see following articles and read my previous blog for some examples). I will be watching with great interest and support.

Press Briefing on Womenomics by Professor Yoko Ishikura (video)

Shinzo Abe: Womenomics will be Key to Japan’s Revival

Top Japanese Lawmaker Urges Women to be More Visible

Japan’s Part Time Workers Have Had Enough

Outrage in Japan as Lawmaker jeered for being single and childless

Japanese Government to prioritise firms that employ more women

Japan to reward companies adding women to payroll

Akio Adachi’s Graduation Speech from GLOBIS talking about women (video)

Abe Joins Caroline Kennedy in “Womenomics” Push

Japanese Women and Work: Holding Back Half The Nation: The Economist

 

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