It is great news for Sony president Nicole Seligman, but not such a hopeful message about gender equality in Japan; Seligman, an American, was the only woman to make it to the Nikkei 225’s top earning executives list. She was the lone woman on a list of 188 executives to make 100 million yen or $978, 000.
Little has changed in Japanese society when it comes to views of women in the workplace, and even more so in management positions. Prime Minster Abe made an objective to have 30% of management positions in Japan filled by women by 2020. However, the Japanese work culture is not one that seems to accommodate women readily, or at least mothers, with the low number of spaces open at childcare facilities, long hours and having to socialize with bosses at bars. Akira Kawaguchi professor of Doshisha University in Kyoto, commented, “It is becoming clear that Japan’s economic growth won’t be sustainable if we don’t utilize women in the workforce. For corporations, they won’t be able to hire the best talent if they focus only on men.”
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Women occupy only 6.2% of management positions and 52% of companies don’t have a single female manager. Japan, the third largest economy, has the second largest pay differential between men and women, following only Korea, where it is 37%, 27% in Japan and 19% in the United States. The pay gap becomes even greater after women have children, and this motivates many women to stay out of the work force after their maternity leaves. This tendency may perpetuate a belief that a woman will be less dedicated to a company than a man, and might account for reluctance to promote women into management positions.
Kumi Sato, female CEO of Cosmo Public Relations commented, “Women have to carry a lot of the burden. There are few support structures that give women the real option to continue to work.”