Japanese Career Women Battle ‘Salaryman’ Culture

Japanese career women

Many Japanese career women know how their careers will end before they’ve even started.

At Japanese firms, there are only two paths available: the “management” and “mommy” tracks.

That’s because women usually end up in the non-career roles, which involve administrative jobs with hardly any advancement opportunities.

Machiko Osawa, a labor economist at Japan Women’s University says, “Highly educated women quit because it’s not worthwhile keeping that ‘stupid’ job.”

Although the Japanese government wants more women to pursue careers to help the economy, obstacles like the separate career tracks make it difficult.  Nearly 3 million women in Japan are not working even though they want to.

Women only account for 9 percent of all senior managers at Nissan. That’s above the 8.3 percent average for Japanese companies with more than 100 employees.

Chie Kabayashi leads Nissan’s diversity development office. In 2005, she became the first Japanese working mother to post overseas for Nissan.

The company draws women with their generous parental leave, flexible working hours, career mentoring and on-site childcare facilities.

However, the Japanese government’s goal is for women to represent 15 percent of senior managers at private companies by 2020.

About a dozen women interviewed by CNN Money shared experiences trying to convince male hiring managers they could do the job.

Women say that it’s difficult to manage household duties while trying to keep up with the ‘salaryman’ culture which is characterized by long working hours and socializing over drinks – a sign of job commitment.

The government is trying to pressure companies to pay attention to Japanese career women. A new regulation requires firms to disclose how many female employees they have and their plans to support and promote them.

Japanese career women want to see long-term career paths. There also needs to be an initiative in the private sector.

Nissan’s Chie Kabayashi hopes the situation will improve to the point where her job in diversity development is no longer necessary.

Archuleta Chisolm

Senior Writer

Archuleta is a brave soul without wings. She is a self-published author of three books, poet, freelancer, speaker, pen junkie, and U.S. Army veteran. She has a passion for encouraging women to be the best version of themselves. Made in Kansas City, Living in Houston.