Dr Sachiko Takeda, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Sheffield and Women and Work Research Center (Japan), has been carrying out a research project ‘Developing Women’s Careers in Japan’, funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme. As part of the research finding dissemination, Sachiko and the team recently hosted a workshop at J.P. Morgan’s head office in Tokyo; welcoming 40 attendees from industry, mainly representatives of large organisations’ CSR and diversity related activities. The venue was provided through Ms Tsui, Head of Global Philantropy, Asia Pacific at J.P. Morgan Chase, who supported the project’s purport.
The project corresponds to a recent call for emergency measures to create a better work environment for women’s career development. Despite that, Japan has one of the most educated female populations in the world, women are often reported to face substantial difficulties in advancing careers at Japanese firms. Nevertheless, some women do manage to progress to senior levels, and it is the aim of the project to understand their career experience, particularly the problems they had faced and how they overcame those barriers. To achieve this aim, Sachiko conducted 25 face-to-face interviews with Japanese women who held managerial and professional roles in large enterprises.
At the workshop, the project team presented the summary of findings and made the following three suggestions to Japanese organisations: 1) organise workshops to raise awareness of male managers; 2) establish practices of women-to-women mentoring; and 3) improve work-life balance for both men and women. In the panel discussion that followed the presentation, the panellists encouraged women to propose, create and implement new systems themselves at organisations for women’s career development. At the same time, the importance of including small and medium sized organisations, which are the majority in Japan, in the movement and extinguishing prejudice against single and/or childless women was also claimed.