Demonstrator takes part in a march for gender equality to mark the International Women's Day, 8 March 2021, Tokyo, Japan (PHOTO: Issei Kato via Reuters Connect)

Author: Yoshie Tomozumi Nakamura, GWU

Gender inequality and the underutilisation of women’s labour continues to be a significant issue in Japanese society. Japan ranked 139 among 156 countries for women’s participation in management positions. According to a Japanese government report from 2020, women occupy only 9.9 per cent of the legislature and 6.6 per cent of corporate department head positions.

Closing the gender gap would add 5.8 million employees to the Japanese workforce and lift gross domestic product by 10 per cent. But despite the government’s efforts, gender equality in the labour market has been slow to progress.

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s ‘Womenomics‘ approach attempted to empower women’s economic growth in various ways. One major effort to boost women’s leadership development is the ‘Act on Promotion of Women’s Participation and Advancement in the Workplace’ that took effect in 2016. The Act forces government agencies and private corporations with more than 300 employees to create action plans for women’s leadership development and to publicly disclose these plans and their progress.

But this policy failed to reach its goal of having women occupy 30 per cent of managerial positions by 2020. The reasons for this are systemic, structural and sociocultural. Examples of restrictions include the lack of childcare, the underutilisation of paternal leave, labour intensive work and the failure of employers to hire and promote women into leadership roles.

One issue that needs more attention now is women’s lack of leader identity and leadership values. From a sociological perspective, leader identity — the extent to which an individual self-identifies as a leader — is …continue reading