Japan’s Difficult Task to Attain the Media’s Idea of True Equality

I’ve always found it ridiculous for businesses to impose a 50:50 representation of both genders, all races, and what not because it is simply not possible as I’ve written about it before here. The problem is not to do with either gender or race’s ability but the fact is it just goes against the very idea of meritocracy or equality. If a business has an over-representation of a particular gender or race of people and they take specific measures to hire people that are under-represented, that would mean they would have to discount those already over-represented by virtue of them being a certain gender or race.

With the end of the Heisei era coming, today on TV, Ikegami Akira talked about the newsworthy happenings that occured this last 30 years. One of which was how more and more women are taking up management positions at corporations and many also started going into politics. This is good news. In the last many years, the percentage of women in managerial positions and the Japanese upper and lower houses of representatives have gone up from about 2% to 10%. Regardless, Japan still stands at 104 of 113 nations in regard to the percentage of women in managerial roles and 160 of 198 nations in regard to number of women in parliament. That is still very far off by world standards.

I think true equality is when a company hires people who meet their desired skills and nothing else and not because your gender or race is under-represented. I’m sure there has been and still exists gender bias and racism in hiring practices, but again, even without discrimination, the likelihood of a tilt of balance to one side is still very much present—not just because probability of 1 in 2 chances simply doesn’t work out to be 50:50 exactly, but also because there is the factor that some people are simply less interested in certain fields. I do not deny this has something to do with society and upbringing and that should probably be changed, but if there is the lack of such persons of a minority group to choose from in the beginning, businesses should not be penalized for having fewer people of that group.

Japan is in a unique situation among developed nations as 1 out of 3 women do not want to work after marriage. That is about 33% of women who do not intend to continue working after getting married. I even have friends who want to get married because they do not want to work anymore (see this post). If you only have about two-thirds of women who continue to work after marriage and those that do work include people who take on part-time jobs, then it is not hard to imagine why there are few women who make it to management positions. After all, businesses typically do not hire part-time managers. Assuming 50% of those who do work only do part-time work, that would leave about 33% in the full-time workforce. Of this 33%, another 50% rise to management positions and that would leave about 16.5% in those roles. Compare this with 100% of men who continue to work after marriage and 50% rise to management positions, and you can see that for every 50 men, there will be 16.5 women in these roles, which would be about 33%. That is why Japan’s 10% is still very far from what they should be able to achieve.

Of course, I recognise this is an oversimplified estimation as it is based on the concept of Fermi estimate. But according to a 2018 research by Japan Association for Financial Planners among 1,200 women in their 20s to 50s, it is revealed that only 60% wish to continue working after marriage and 34.3% intend to put in the effort to “really work” (“バリバリ働きたい” in Japanese). If 50% of those who work hard rise to management positions, that would make about 17.15% of women in management positions, not too far from my estimate of 16.5% above.

The bigger culprit here could be the social belief and instilled idea rather than choices by businesses. However, this begs the question: who decided that working and rising to managerial positions is better for everyone? Not everyone wants to be a manager and those who want do not necessarily have what it takes. If I had the choice, I might not want to work either, as with many people who want to retire early. But men are made to believe they have to bring home the bread and they do not have the choice of “not wanting to work after marriage.” Have you ever seen a survey that asks if men intend to continue working after marriage? If that is the case, then why would having more women in managerial positions means it is better for women? I know women who are very capable but refuse to go into management, but were eventually forced by the company to take up these roles. Is that better for them?

I think it is good that we are working toward equality and I think this is important. We should continue to work toward everyone being free from any form of suppression and discrimination. But let’s be realistic: just because something isn’t exactly half, doesn’t mean it is not equal.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *