Japanese Businesswomen Face Many Obstacles

Traditional beliefs that tie women to early marriage and child-rearing without the help of their husbands have made it difficult for Japanese women to excel in the business world.

Women often serve as assistants and helpers to their male colleagues, and are denied the opportunity to lead. Poor child care, lack of maternity leave benefits, and sexual harassment have also stifled women’s attempts to move up the corporate ladder.

Now, the region’s economic difficulties have made women’s struggle to succeed even more tenuous. Keiko Takanezawa, an analyst for business publisher Toyo Keizai Co., commented, “Women can’t even find jobs, let alone reach the corporate boardrooms. The economic slump has just made things worse for many women.”

A new law to be enacted in April will make at least minor improvements, although critics charge that since the law doesn’t specify punishments, companies will not enforce it. The law will reverse a ban on employing women for night shifts, given that the inability to work night shifts prevents women from earning managerial positions in many industries. The law will also strengthen calls for equal hiring and promotion and prevention of sexual harassment.

Women compose only 0.2 percent of Japanese executives.


AP - January 25, 1999

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