Thursday, July 30, 2009 | Posted by Jay
All around the world the issue of gender discrimination bears deep roots within history.
With this idea in mind, I believe it is important to understand that the equalization of
gender rights is a relatively recent issue, and will continue to be one of the most
difficult challenges society has to offer. As I am currently an exchange student from the
United States studying in Japan, and since I have a very real interest in entering the
work force after I graduate from college (possibly even something to do with Japan), I
decided to do a bit of digging.
Today, Japan is known to be one of the most modern countries in the
world. Yet compared to the U.S., Japan has a much
older history that reaches back thousands of years (I looked it up, and America is
actually 233 years old as of July 4, 2009).
Thus, while one considering the prospect of working in Japan
might believe the typical Japanese company to be extremely modern and advanced, there are
still quite a few traditions and customs that rule even the working
environment. For instance, it is the custom to work
for the same company for your entire life
unlike in the U.S., where working class citizens usually change jobs on an average of
once every three years. Japanese companies also
operate on a seniority wage system, which plays an important hand in calculating the wage
differences in the company payroll. These two factors
sound genuine enough, and on the surface should not affect working Japanese women. But
let's dig a bit deeper.
Statistically, there are a larger number of part-time working women than there are
part-time working men, and more women quit their jobs than men
do. This is often attributed to reasons such as
marriage, childbirth and childcare. Though Japanese
companies maintain the tradition of keeping an employee in their service until said
employee retires, this tradition is slightly fuzzy when it comes to
women. Because of reasons such as marriage,
childbirth and childcare, Japanese companies do not expect women to stay for very long.
Generally, women are expected to marry by the age of 30 (not a written law or anything,
just a custom). Once a woman gets married, she is
expected to quit her job and rely on her husband for the better part, if not the entire
part, of the household earnings. Once a woman has a
child, she is not technically fired, but she is expected to quit her job to take care of
her child. Even once the child has grown independent
of the mother, the mother is not expected to return.
With all these reasons for the woman to quit or discontinue work, it is not difficult to
understand the large gender gap that exists among Japanese workers. Not only is the woman
barred from the seniority wage system, but she is also socially barred from ever
returning to the workforce by quitting a job that, theoretically at least, should've
lasted her until retirement. Japanese women are not
only restricted from the workforce by the Japanese-defined social role of a Japanese
woman, but also by the common stereotype that women as a whole have no motivation to
is not really motivated to
In recent years, Japan has become more and more open to the image of the working woman.
Even with the bulk of the female working force kept to the part-time sector, there are
still some women who have been promoted within Japanese
companies. Statistics illustrating the structure of
the Japanese Labor Market indicates that this is true; yet at the same time it also
indicates that almost no women are allowed into the management and administration level
of any Japanese company. This may be attributed to
the traditionally sexist perspective of women in the working force
is not really motivated to
This type of reasoning is one step within a vicious
cycle. Logically speaking, if an employee tries their
utmost best to deliver what is required of them, they may expect a raise or some form of
promotion for their efforts. However in Japan, should
a woman follow such a path she will find herself hitting a
No matter how hard the woman works, she generally will not receive that raise or
promotion she deserves, while her male counterpart will
receive all that and more
in the future. Thus, the motivation to work drops,
and the Japanese company top dogs check her off as yet another unmotivated female
Motivation to work aside, there is still another
internationally accepted qualifying characteristic (doesn't that just sound so official?)
for any potential employee: education. This is
probably one of the most equal-opportunity social institutions that Japan has to offer
today. Statistically, women believe that the Japanese
school system is virtually gender-blind, and that it is a system of merit based on high
school and college entrance exams that analyze
thinking ability over anything else. These thoughts are not
unfounded. Many of the top Japanese universities
average an almost fifty-fifty ratio of male and female
students. With such facts in mind, I think it is safe
to conclude that gender issues within the work force are not influenced by the quality of
education in a
work resume, but rather by something else.
When I spoke with some of my Japanese friends at the Japanese university I've been
attending, I realized two things: Japanese women are not unaware of the unfairness of the
gender-related discriminations they face not only at work, but on a daily basis; and
Japanese women are generally too tired or accustomed to accepting such unfair treatment
of their own gender, and do not have the means to fight back.
In the U.S., gender discrimination has improved drastically since the first
Rights Movement that spanned from 1848 to 1920 (that's a 72 year-long gender war we're
talking about). As a female American currently
working a few part-time jobs while taking classes in university, the only real
discrimination I notice in the working environment is the different social roles in
dating, and which toilet
supposed to use. There are management positions
filled by both men and women who were, in theory and in most of practice, promoted based
on their own abilities and achievements. It truly is a disappointment to realize that
some of the most amazing Japanese friends I've made are held back from these kinds of
freedoms on the basis of their gender.
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Read more about Jay
My name is Jay Lee, and I have traveled to the East Coast of the United States, studied in Kyoto, Japan for a time, and currently live in Southern California.
My preferred art mediums include: digital on adobe products, corel, web; fine on oil-on-canvas or charcoal; photography in black and white, with a focus on portraiture and music; and classical music on piano.
I work as a graphic designer and web developer with a primary interest in marketing, advertising, and business.