A growing number of companies in Japan are working together to nurture female employees who are seen as candidates for managerial positions. These companies arrange for female employees of around the same generation to attend joint training sessions where they can gain insights into the experiences of women working at other firms. In addition to finding a range of role models, attendees also can build up a diverse network of contacts.

This year, Panasonic Group, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co and Yamato Holdings Co launched a training programme for female employees whom the companies expect to become successful managers. Six employees from each company were selected to attend the regular sessions during the roughly eight-month programme for “female leaders” from different industries. The course aims to inspire the participants by broadening their horizons through talking to managers from other firms and interacting with women of similar ages in different occupations.

A training session held in late August focused on how management should deal with a crisis. Attendees conducted mock press conferences and asked Yoshimi Oshita, representative of Yamato Packing Technology Institute Co, about her path to a management post, her personal principles and other aspects of her career. “Are you extra-careful about anything when communicating for the first time with a subordinate at work?” asked one participant, while another inquired, “Do you still have mentors?”

Shiomi Kawagoe, a 32-year-old employee at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance, said: “We can learn about being attentive to those around us and specific communication skills from female employees my age who already have staff under them, such as working cheerfully, especially when we’re busy, and not rejecting out of hand the ideas of the person we’re talking to.”

Seiko Hasegawa, head of Meiji Yasuda’s diversity management office, added, “I hope the training will be a good opportunity for participants to form connections with people from other companies and develop initiative and a hunger to take on new challenges.”

Kameda Seika Co, a snack food manufacturer based in Niigata city, sends full-time regular female employees aged around 30 to training programmes in which they interact with workers from other industries.

Eight companies sent employees to a session held in Tokyo at which they reviewed how they approach their jobs and gave presentations as teams featuring participants from a mix of firms. “These women are at an age where they’re really keen to work, but they also grapple with issues like marriage and having children,” said Kimiko Uchiyama, who is in charge of promoting women’s workplace participation and advancement. “I hope sharing their concerns with employees from other companies will clarify their thinking about their own careers.”

Such efforts have been gaining traction because some women avoid seeking management positions after seeing how these posts burden older women at their company. In June, the Pasona Institute released the results of a survey it conducted on female full-time employees from various fields. Of 238 women on the managerial track, 49% in their 20s and 48% in their 30s and 40s said they “do not want to work in a management position”. According to the survey, the most common reason given by both groups was “because it looks gruelling”. A service that introduces working women to role models so they can share their thoughts and become more familiar with management also has arrived on the scene.

Late last year, VisasQ Inc, a Tokyo-based operator of a business consultation website, launched a service for nurturing female managers. VisasQ introduces company bosses and managers picked from the 90,000 or so registered with the company to a client, where they then serve as mentors or deliver lectures. “Many of our clients want to hear specifically from people who have experienced the same sort of working situation,” a VisasQ spokesperson said.

In February, Tokyo-based NTT Docomo Inc invited a female manager from NEC Corp to give a speech at an in-house seminar for female employees in their fifth year at the company. “There is still a shortage of (female) role models at many companies,” said Yoko Yajima, a principal research analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co. “In addition to having women meet various role models, companies should also improve their working environment. “They need to drastically change the mind-set about managerial posts and establish suitable appraisal standards, so employees with time constraints can do their jobs properly.”

While Japanese women grapple with career prospects, women in China are still dealing with the issue of being the main, unsupported, caregiver. Being a woman is tough in China – at least if you go by how men and women spend their day. Chinese women on average spend 2.1 hours a day on housework, roughly three times that of men, according to a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics published earlier in the year.

The gap is much larger than that in the United States, where women also work more than two hours on household activities, but American men do twice as much as their Chinese counterparts. When other chores – such as taking care of children, grocery shopping or picking kids up from school – are taken into account, Chinese women are engaged 3.8 hours a day on such “unpaid work”, more than the 3.58 hours on jobs or businesses. Men, on the contrary, work 1.53 hours unpaid and 5.25 hours paid. The difference in average daily work hours also reflects that fewer women are employed full time.

That gender gap doesn’t seem to narrow much over time – the difference between unpaid work hours shrank by a mere four minutes compared to 2008, the last time such a survey was conducted. Within that period, per capita economic output doubled, according to the same report. While communist regimes usually emphasise gender equality, and decades of reforms offered Chinese women more opportunities to get education and jobs, they are still seen as the main caregivers and are more often expected to give up their careers for families when needed. China was ranked 103 out of 149 nations by the World Economic Forum on gender equality last year.

Men also have about half an hour more “disposable time” to do exercise, watch television, read magazines or meet up with friends, according to the survey. A more equal time expense item: men and women each spend 2.9 hours and 2.5 hours a day online, respectively.

— The Japan News/ANN



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