Accepted paper:

Lifting half of Japan's sky: rise of women in Japanese management


Tomoko Connolly (College of William and Mary)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the practices of Japanese working women and their strategies for survival and for meaningful work-life balance. It will articulate key obstacles to gender-equity and professional development in Japan.

Paper long abstract:

Japan's women have been largely excluded from the elite core of most successful large firms that guarantee full-time, long-term, steady employment and promotion to select groups of Japanese male university-graduates. Japanese women quit their careers after having children at a higher rate than in any other advanced economies, resulting in a shallower talent pool. Many women who stay on the professional track forgo motherhood altogether, contributing to one of the world's lowest fertility rates. While Japan ranks as the third largest economic power, it ranks the 105th among 153 countries surveyed by the World Forum in terms of gender-equity. However, new governmental policy for economic revitalization or so-called Abenomics has made the promotion of working women a signature feature of the country's growth strategy. Prime Minister Abe believes that more active promotion of women in business can rescue the Japanese economy. On the other hand, Japanese company's inability so far to generate a system that allows women to achieve a work-life balance has had dire economic and demographic consequences. Based on six months of in-depth interviews with managers and ethnographic analysis of the Japanese employment system, this paper examines the challenges and practices of working women who have been recently inducted into top management. It will investigate their strategies for survival and prosperity and for meaningful work-life balance, and will articulate key obstacles to corporate gender-equity and female professional development.

panel P113
Local entrepreneurial responses to global forces: new and alternative enterprise re-configurations in times of crisis and economic hardship (EASA Network for Economic Anthropology)