Author: Yoshie Tomozumi Nakamura, GWU
Gender inequality and the underutilization of female labor continue to be a significant problem in Japanese society. Japan class 139 among 156 countries for the participation of women in leadership positions. According to a Japanese government report of As of 2020, women hold only 9.9% of the legislature and 6.6% of corporate department head positions.
Closing the gender gap would have to add 5.8 million employees to the Japanese workforce and increase gross domestic product by 10%. But despite the government’s efforts, the genre equality in the labor market has been slow to progress.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo AbeWomenomics‘ approach attempted to empower women economic growth in various ways. A major effort to strengthen women’s leadership development is the “Law for the Promotion of the Participation and Advancement of Women in the Workplace” which came into force in 2016. The law requires government agencies and private companies with more than 300 employees to create action plans for women’s leadership development and to publicly disclose those plans and their progress.
But this policy failed to achieve its goal to see women hold 30% of leadership positions by 2020. The reasons for this are systemic, structural and socio-cultural. Examples of Restrictions to understand lack of childcare, underutilization of paternal leave, labor-intensive work, and failure of employers to hire and promote women to leadership positions.
One issue that deserves more attention now is the lack of leader’s identity and leadership values. From a sociological perspective, leader identity – the extent to which an individual identifies as a leader – is seen as fluid and co-constructed in the social context. Women constantly adapt to the social identity of their group. Women who experience the leadership of other women are more likely to see themselves as potential leaders.
It is clear that women find it difficult to build their leadership identity due to limited exposure to female leadership networks, female role models and few opportunities to gain experience through leadership assignments. . Through socially constructive opportunities, women can gain confidence in leadership roles and begin to see themselves as leaders.
As women shape their own leadership identities, it is essential for them to develop their own values. Increased self-awareness leadership values is essential, especially in the crisis situations faced by today’s leaders volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Women leaders must understand themselves and their core values in order to optimize their talent and leadership potential.
Without opportunities to develop their leadership identity and values, it can be difficult for women to motivate themselves to advance in their careers. Compared to their male counterparts, Japanese women show less motivation pursue leadership assignments when approached for such opportunities, thus widening the leadership gender gap. Women do not feel equipped to take on more responsibilities or believe they cannot successfully perform leadership tasks.
Although women are a great reservoir of quality work, Japanese company prevented women from building leadership capital. For Japanese women to successfully discover their own values and build their leadership identities, it is important that they are provided with learning opportunities that can broaden their thinking and provide meaningful interactions with others. There are successful programs that help women build their leadership identity through activities such as mentoring, coaching, social networking, and values development.
Given Japan’s male-dominated leadership environment, it’s important for women to find peers and role models. They should also engage in self-exploration through programs for women where they can learn from the obstacles and successes of others.
With this support, they can gain the confidence and motivation to pursue their leadership. These activities must be more widely offered to women, both internally and externally to their organizations. This will allow women to build on the legislative actions of the Japanese government and create environments in which women can thrive and become leaders.
Japanese society must increase its investment in women to support their leadership development in a way that will change the future of Japan.
Yoshie Tomozumi Nakamura is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University.