BBC Radio 5Live and Observer Newspaper comments on Japanese Business culture, Nissan scandal and diversity

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BBC Radio 5Live and Observer Newspaper comments on Japanese Business culture, Nissan scandal and diversity

Posted on 26 November 2018 in Cultural Awareness, Japanese Corporate Culture, News, womenomics -
Nissan

As a specialist in understanding the differences between business cultures of Japan and the West and explaining the distinctions in a way to facilitate better business, I was asked to come into BBC Radio 5 Live’s ‘Wake up to Money’ Show and also submit some comments to the Observer Newspaper in light of the recent Nissan scandal. Inevitably, both sides have very different takes on this-any western reporting of this that seems to blame the situation on Japanese business culture will understandably not go down too well with the Japanese, especially when there are other factors involved re Ghosn’s behaviour that culturally do not fit with However, the universal truth is that it will be seen differently through different cultural lenses. However, my final comments on diversity were important. Getting more females into management and board positions has been shown to improve diversity of opinions and encourage different ways of doing things. Maybe Japan needs to engage its own female labour force to bring about the many reforms that are happening. Links to articles and radio show are above.

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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 -
PWC3

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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Sexism and the survival of Japan.

Posted on 14 May 2018 in Cultural Awareness, Japanese Corporate Culture, womenomics -
womenomics

Sexism and the survival of Japan

Recent reports in the press have shown Japan up as a ‘sexist country’ and are not good news given Japan’s current demographic crisis and their need to both attract diverse talent to Japan and garner their female workforce to further the goals of the Japanese government’s ‘womenomics’ policies. The exclusion of women from certain sacred places such as the sumo ring and recent comments by a politician about a woman’s primary role being to pro-create highlight the segregated gender roles that are ingrained within Japanese society. They are proving incredibly hard to change given their historically economic and cultural importance.

Ingrained Gender Roles

Ancient history references several Japanese Empresses and the mythology about Japan’s very creation is credited to the female goddess Izanami. However, the gender roles have since been influenced by Confucian beliefs and the patriarchal system that evolved within feudal Japan. These effectively segregated women into the realm of the household (or the water trade) and men into public life. In various periods in recent history, women have stepped out from beyond this role to support the economy and realise their own economic independence but this has never really effectively challenged the traditional expectations of women’s role within society, which has resulted in non-progressive policy making, ineffective feminist challenges as well as poor results from womenomics and its optimistic targets of creating higher numbers of females in leadership positions. Japan has consistently dropped within the rankings of the Economic Health Forum’s Gender Gap Report, even with one of the world’s highest rankings of female education and health.

Sexist Corporate Culture

The Japanese labour market is still very influenced by the ‘gendered dual system’ institutionalised after WWII, which had the ‘women as care-giver and men as breadwinner’ at its core. As a result of this management system (gendered promotions, evaluations, training opportunities, length of service valued over performance), there is an inherently ‘sexist’ corporate culture within Japan, which struggles to utilise or empower the female labour market. There is no core belief in wanting women as corporate influencers and there are ingrained values about the roles and behaviours of women amongst the main decision makers, who are unsurprisingly mostly older men. This belief that a woman’s primary role is a care-giver is no doubt the reason behind the high number of maternity harassment cases in Japan and also contributed to the recent comments by the MP regarding single women being a burden on the state. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/11/single-women-a-burden-on-the-state-says-japanese-mp

Re-alignment of gender roles

Although Japan’s Female Labour Participation Rate recently overtook that of the US, these figures hide the fact that many women are still in marginalised roles within the labour market. The challenges of working up the ranks within this ‘sexist’ corporate system, especially if you want a family, are great and it is not surprising many women are choosing not to do both. Granted, there are many initiatives taking place to try to balance this situation but unless ingrained gender roles are re-thought in a way not just to suit the economic needs of Japan but include challenges to core beliefs and understanding of gender equality, Japan will not be able to fully globalise nor will they benefit fully from this rich resource of female labour. Japanese women should be able to ‘shine’ to their full potential, which can include being great mothers if they so wish. The inability of the male dominated powers in Japan to address this properly has been historic and the fear behind its potential realisation is reflected globally amidst a current global backlash against female power. A sustainable, bottom-up approach is needed to re-align this imbalance from the moment children become socialised into gendered roles and experiences. This will ensure both the survival of the positive aspects of Japanese gender roles and of the Japanese race itself.

 

Sarah Parsons is MD of Japan in Perspective, a consultancy company that facilitates high-level cross-cultural business understanding and communication. They also run Female Empowerment and Diversity & Inclusion training as well as a host of other Management Training Packages. Please contact them to see how they can make sure your business is fully globalised so you can attract the best talent.

Sarah is also conducting academic research into the gender roles in Japan and how they can be influenced through socialisation in education. Feel free to contact her with your views on this article. Sarah-parsons@japaninperspective.com

 

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