Gender discrimination in Japan-bad PR .

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Gender discrimination in Japan-bad PR .

Posted on 3 August 2018 in Japanese Corporate Culture, News, womenomics -
Tokyo medical University

Gender discrimination, as we define it legally in the UK, is alive and well in Japanese business practices. The breaking news of how Tokyo Medical University allegedly discriminated against female candidates by lowering their exam results may seem shocking to many western viewers (I can’t even put here some of the reactions I’ve seen through social media) but in reality, these ‘silent’ practices are still common occurrences in Japan given that the gendered roles of ‘male as breadwinner’ and female as ‘primary care-giver’ are deeply ingrained into Japanese society and were enshrined within the post-war HRM systems of larger corporations in Japan. Although many top-down attempts are being made to reverse this mindset, the under-current is still that women wanting families are obligated to take a different career path, as evidenced by the relatively low maternal work-force (unless in non-managerial work/part-time or flexible roles), low uptake of paternity leave (Japan has one of the most generous systems in the world) and worrying levels of maternity harassment institutionalised within workplaces. Within this context, the case of the Medical School is depressingly unsurprising as is the inability to challenge this mindset that exists even within women’s aspirations or enshrine the right of women to contribute to work and have children within recruitment processes. Instead, they allowed this cultural norm to justify discriminatory practises and continue the male-dominated status-quo-another reason why little progress is being made.

You don’t need to look any further than recent controversial statements by leading decision-makers in Japan (mostly older male politicians) regarding the ‘role of women in society’ to see the resistance to changes in gendered behaviour needed for Japan to enjoy gender equality amongst an increasingly complex environment in which the government’s womenomics initiatives have been introduced. No wonder they have not really met their targets of getting more women into managerial positions-indeed Japan has steadily dropped in the World Economic Forums’ Global Ratings on gender equality since Abe took power in 2012. The most common solution/excuse I hear is that it will take time, possibly a whole generation, for new expectations of gendered roles to emerge. However, Japan does not have that time. Given the current levels of increased international awareness due to the upcoming Olympics and Para-Olympics, similar stories will be uncovered and presented for the world to see. Economically, it will harm Japan too given their current demographic challenges and globalisation imperative, which both necessitate Japan to leverage their under-utilised female workforce and attract non Japanese workers, either domestically or abroad. This is bad PR for Japanese Companies wanting to be taken seriously as a progressive global employer.

Despite this being one of the major challenges to Japan’s growth (both demographically and economically), it is being increasingly left off the global agenda. As an example, a recent Bloomberg article advertising a new book by leading experts called ‘Reinventing Japan-New Directions in Global Leadership’ about how Japan can engage effectively with the rest of the world, made absolutely no mention of the gender issue and from a look through the contents section, neither does the book. Very worrying indeed. Gender must stay on the agenda for Japan.

For more information on how we can support your company globalise and understand how to navigate cross-cultural gender issues as well as ensure your company can be a global gender-equal employer, please contact us. We offer innovative, flexible and sensitive training or consultation, however and wherever you need it.



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Japanese Business Links in the North of England-Gender, Inward Investment and Business Tips

Posted on 4 July 2018 in Cultural Awareness, Japanese Corporate Culture, News, womenomics -

The Japan Society of the UK recently held its first regional business event: ‘Japanese Business Links in the North of England’, hosted by PwC in Leeds and as a Trustee to the Japan Society and JETAAUK Chair, I was asked to speak and invite speakers within Japan related businesses in that area to come along and share their knowledge. I did a presentation on: ‘Why Gender should still be on the Agenda for Japanese Business’ exploring the large gender gap in Japan and how cultural norms and ingrained gender roles are a barrier to closing this gap. It highlighted how this will potentially affect Japan’s PR especially when Japanese companies are needing to globalise and attract global talent, due to their declining labour force. I also shared some case studies I have seen within my professional experience and explained how we are working with Japanese companies to create more gender diversity and improve their global PR. (For more background information on this topic, see recent blog on ‘Sexism and Survival of Japan.’ To find out how we can help your company globalise by adapting work-place structures and norms to attract a more diverse work-force and enjoy better PR, contact us.)

Rob Holmes from the Nasmyth group spoke about how his company had adapted their processes and communications to work with the Japanese and enjoy long-term success with Japanese clients within the aerospace industry. He also spoke about his personal journey of learning about how the Japanese work and gave tips on best business practices.

Richard Robinson, MD of Calbee UK, spoke about why they had chosen Leeds for their UK HQ, how they have taken Japan as an inspiration for their marketing and flavours and how they have reflected Japanese values within their mission statement and CSR activities, which include educational and social initiatives within the local community of their manufacturing facilities in Wales.

Nick Woodford from PwC rounded up the event by summarising pertinent Japan UK business issues including Brexit and Japanese investment into the UK followed by a lively Q&A after which everyone enjoyed some valuable networking, some Calbee snacks and cheered on Japan in the football. Many valuable connections were made within a diverse audience of business people, educationalists, diplomats and students.





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Brexit Briefing to Japanese Companies on ‘Understanding the British.’

Posted on 6 March 2018 in Inter-Cultural Training, News -

I recently gave a Brexit Briefing at Baker McKenzie for some of their Japanese clients, to give them: a deeper understanding of the context of the Brexit vote, a fresh insight into the mentality of British people and a chance to discuss some of the ensuing impacts of the current political decisions being taken on training and skills.

Using statistical analysis, I outlined how regional underinvestment and a culture of centralised business decision-making has resulted in patchy prosperity across the UK. This was one of the main drivers for the frustrated Brexit vote, which was highest in the areas where productivity was at its lowest. I also spoke about how the rhetorical nature of British politics had led to an out-of-touch attitude regarding these frustrations amongst the political elite alongside a campaign fought on rhetoric and intellectual word-play that was persuasive, emotive and channelled this frustration into an anti-migrant mentality (even though the areas that voted Leave had some of the lowest levels of immigration). The result caught many of those in power by surprise, including the Japanese business community, who had been largely assured it wouldn’t happen, couldn’t understand the nature of the decision and were disappointed by the result in areas such as the NE where Japanese companies had contributed immensely to job creation education and training. To explain this further, I looked at cultural differences both between the Japanese and the British from an employer-employee perspective but also differences between the EU and the British, that are becoming evident now within negotiations.

Up-skilling the UK

Current UK labour skills shortages, especially in areas that have traditionally relied on EU immigration combined with an undervalued vocational training system all point to a potential post-Brexit labour skills crisis that will hopefully lead to an ‘up-skilling’ of the British work-force and a re-think of adult education. Theresa May’s recent announcement about a governmental review of the adult-education system shows an acknowledgement of this.The Japanese are traditionally great pioneers of the apprenticeship method of training and their companies in the UK have been incremental in providing vocational training & education for the British workforce. Companies like Hitachi Rail have recently launched new apprenticeship programmes and have invested in local technical schools. It’s important we can find a way of incentivising them to stay in the UK.

Potential New Government

Since the briefing took place on the day that the CBI and the IoD threw their support behind Labour’s proposals to maintain a UK/EU custom’s union, we discussed the possibility of a change of Government and an understanding of the Labour Government’s proposals regarding the skills shortage and educational reforms, moving economic growth out of the south and dealing with some of the social problems that led to such a culture of dissatisfaction in the first place.

Please contact us should you wish to hold an innovative Brexit briefing within your company for Japanese staff living in the UK, tailored towards furthering learning and deepening understanding of the British people, politics and society.

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Foreign Graduate Employment in Japanese Companies, SOAS Conference

Posted on 4 January 2018 in Japanese Corporate Culture, News -
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On the 6th November 2017, I chaired a panel of Japanese companies and recruitment agencies at this conference at SOAS, organised by Dr Harald Conrad Harald Conrad, a lecturer on Japan’s economy and management at Sheffield University. The two day conference was aimed at sharing the realities of working for Japanese companies for foreign graduates so that the teaching of Japanese at university level can reflect these needs. Academics and students from all over Europe attended

The Japan Times featured an article about this conferenceclick here

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