The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced in October last year that they are revamping their their Nadeshiko* Brand – the annual selection of Japanese companies that are outstanding in their encouragement of the success of women in the workplace. As well as quantitative questions, this time they are asking more qualitative questions, on areas such as “whether the systems and measures to promote [women’s success in the workplace] are linked to management strategies.” The aim is to evaluate “whether each company has visualized a consistent story whether they are conveying information effectively throughout Japan and overseas”. The background to this change seems to be the increasing pressure on Japanese and other multinationals to be more transparent – for example making more disclosures of information such as the gender pay gap reporting requirement in the UK.
I am wondering whether this evaluation will cover more than the communication of initiatives overseas. Will they also be including their overseas employees in their quantitative questions, and also in the systems and measures? It has been a longstanding bugbear of mine that many Japanese companies publish plenty of information about the diversity of their Japanese workforce, but very little detail about their overseas employees. In the case of Japanese trading companies, they do not publish any figures on the numbers of people that are working at their overseas subsidiaries. It would seem they literally do not count.
When I last took a look at the boards of the largest Japanese companies in the UK, in 2016, it was clear there were fewer women on the boards of Japanese companies in the UK than there were even in Japan. I also found differences in the degree of national diversity – some boards in the UK were all Japanese (and almost all men), and some hardly had any Japanese on the board.
Seven years on, there has undoubtedly been progress, of sorts. The pressures that I pointed to in 2016, such as the stricter demands from UK and other financial regulatory authorities on Japanese financial services companies to have more diverse boards or for Japanese companies who are public sector suppliers (Hitachi, Fujitsu) to be more diverse have worked.
Fujitsu UK proudly points out on its website that it was one of the first companies to report on its gender pay gap, in 2017, since when, there has been a 44% reduction in the median gap to 10% and a 43% reduction in the mean to 9.6%. They have also published their first ever ethnicity pay gap, even though this is not a government mandated requirement. They also have a female Managing Director for the UK, a first I believe. She and the former UK MD and the head of Global Legal (both male) are the three board members – there are no Japanese board directors. In 2016 there were 6 people on the board, all male, one of whom was Japanese. The board in Japan has also undergone an overhaul, as have many Japanese boards, with the governance laws mandating them to appoint external directors. Fujitsu Japan has only two representative directors, both Japanese males, and 6 external directors, two of whom are female and one is an American male (albeit a fluent Japanese speaker and permanent resident in Japan). Fujitsu was a Nadeshiko brand in 2016, but not since.
Daiwa Capital Markets Europe also recently appointed its first ever female CEO – who is dual nationality British/South African. There are nine members of the DCME board in the UK, five of whom are non executive directors and the majority of whom are not Japanese. Of the non-executive directors, 3 are female non-Japanese, 2 are male Japanese. The other three members of the board besides the CEO are one Japanese male in the UK, 1 Japanese male in Japan and one South African/British male in the UK, who is the Chair. The holding company for Daiwa Capital Markets Europe, Daiwa Securities, has been a Nadeshiko brand every year since 2013. Its gender pay gap in the UK is nonetheless quite high for 2021, above the financial institutions average of 32% for the mean, at 38.8% mean, 37.9% median. Perhaps this will change with the new CEO in place.
The services sector has rather different challenges to the automotive manufacturing sector both in Japan and in the UK. In Japan, only Toyota group member Aisin is a Nadeshiko brand in the transportation equipment category. Nissan points out that 92% of its 7,342 employees, across manufacturing, design, parts and sales and marketing in the UK are male. Looking at their gender pay gap numbers, it’s clear that there is a higher proportion of women in bonus attracting, presumably white collar jobs and middle management, and a higher percentage of men than women are in lower paid blue collar jobs. Nonetheless, a gender pay gap of 6.4% median and 8.7% mean was identified. The UK boards of both the manufacturing and the sales and marketing side are 100% non-Japanese in composition, but no female representation. Nissan was named as a Nadeshiko brand in 2017 but not since.
Presumably, as in previous years, the announcement of the FY2022 Nadeshiko brands will be made in March 2023. It will be interesting to see what has changed.
* Nadeshiko is a Japanese flower that is also native to northern Europe – “pink”, of course.
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