The ‘third arrow’ of Abenomics includes trying to get more women back into the workplace – one of the few options left to Japan to achieve GDP growth with an ageing population, without immigration. This is not a new topic for most Japanese companies, who have been worrying about “Tayousei” (Diversity) for a while now, issuing a press release every time they manage to appoint a woman to a senior position.
The Nikkei Weekly this week has a full length article ($) examining which companies are making progress in this area. In February, the Tokyo Stock Exchange. and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry designated 17 first-section companies – including Nikon, Daikin and Nissan – as Nadeshiko stocks, acknowledging their efforts to provide support for female employees. The selection process is based the percentage of female managers, child care measures and other criteria. The word nadeshiko, pink carnation, is associated with women (and is the nickname of the Japanese women’s football team)
Nikon (which has around 24,000 employees in total, and 86% of its sales overseas) is cited for having quadrupled the number of women managers in the past six years to…. 39. Toshiba started a career advancement program with special training for women, but abandoned it after two years after complaints from male managers that there was a special quota for women. Toshiba is now aiming for 5% of its managers to be women by 2015, but insists this is not a quota or a target.
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., another Nadeshiko stock, promoted more than 220 women into management roles the past year, bringing the total number of female managers to around 1,200. But approximately 740, or 60%, serve as deputy general managers and do not actually have anyone working under them.
I sense a chicken and egg situation here – it is hard to do anything progressive that truly threatens the status quo when there has been such a long period of wage deflation, job losses and general morale slump amongst middle aged male workers, yet bringing more women back into the workplace is undoubtedly one way to reinvigorate the economy, boost demand and give a needed kick up the backside to those companies full of demoralized men.
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