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Breaking down barriers: Japanese organisations learn about obstacles for women’s career development

Friday, September 1st, 2017

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Japan has one of the most educated female populations in the world, yet women continue to face substantial difficulties in advancing their careers. Dr Huiping Xian (pictured above, left) from the Management School has used a British Academy research grant to identify the obstacles and how to overcome them

Huiping recently presented her findings at J.P. Morgan’s Tokyo head office, an event supported hosted by the financial services firm which welcomed 40 attendees from academia and industry, including managers from large Japanese firms like Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), Tsukuba Bank Group, Dydo Pharmaceutical Corporation, Sekisui House and Information Services International-Dentsu, Ltd.

In her presentation, Huiping compared employment and career issues which women face in China, the UK and Japan. Her presentation drew knowledge and findings from the research project, in which her team conducted 25 face-to-face interviews with Japanese women who hold managerial and professional roles.

Following the interviews, researchers identified four issues which are hindering women’s career development in Japanese firms: gender bias against women; masculine organisational culture and practices; the difficulty of combining work and family; and the lack of female role models and mentors.

Huiping hopes that by holding events in business settings, Japanese firms will pay attention to the issues: “It is essential that organisations start to tackle issues that prevent women from progressing, such as long-hours culture and lack of support for women.

“I learned that J.P. Morgan has an informal group, based on their global network, which aims to promote better work-life balance for their employees – it is encouraging that their Vice President Marketing and Communications, Ms Ayako Asano, attended the workshop. This shows that it is on the agenda for large Japanese organisations.

“We would like Japanese organisations to train line managers to help support women in their team, ask successful women in their company to mentor and share experiences, and consider implementing policies which limit the number of overtime hours and encourage work-life balance.”

Huiping is Principal Investigator on this project, ‘Developing women’s careers in Japan’. Research has been done in collaboration with colleagues at Bournmouth University (UK) and the Women and Work Research Centre (Japan). Images courtesy of Kanae Toyama. Click here to view slide from the discussed research.