Why Japan’s gender gap is set to shrink

“During the 1980s, most 18-year-old girls went from school to two-year “junior colleges” (with a heavy emphasis on home economics), rather than to the four-year university courses favoured by their male contemporaries. So among the generation now at the sort of age—typically 50-55—from which companies and other organisations pick their leaders, there are few women to choose from.”

“this changed during the 1990s, as families and the girls themselves decided that they too deserved a full four-year university education. Moreover, fewer professional women now decide, or are forced, to leave their jobs when they get married or have children (and the marriage rate itself has declined), so the drop-out rate has fallen. The pipeline of potential female leaders is increasing every year.

Will they be chosen? Certainly, too few companies, especially the big and famous ones, have altered their promotion and staff-deployment practices sufficiently to become family-friendly. The gender gap in admission to the best public universities, including Tokyo and Kyoto, from which top organisations recruit, remains wide. Nevertheless, many organisations have changed their ways, out of sheer necessity: with Japan’s population ageing and declining every year, there are not enough trained and experienced men to hog all the managerial jobs any longer.“Diversity” has become a buzzword. Spending on child-care facilities, to make it easier to retain mid-career female staff, has climbed. Soon a critical mass of female managers will be in place, sufficient to change corporate procedures and cultures for their successors, as has happened in Europe and America.”

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