Women Break Barriers in Japanese Workforce

Soon, a Japanese sport dominated by men for over 1,000 years will open up to women athletes. The sport is sumo wrestling, and women’s entrance is an indicator of the move Japanese women are making into many different facets of Japanese work life. Most recently, Naomi Sakuma, 23, became the first woman to make it onto the floor of the Tokyo Securities Exchange as a trader and Kyoko Shimura became the first woman in more than 1,000 years to perform the sacred Knife Ceremony, relating to sushi, at the Hashirimizu temple. Japanese women are entering blue-collar jobs in increasing numbers; the Ministry of General Affairs states that women now fill approximately 30% of these jobs, representing an 11% increase in the last decade. Women in white-collar jobs, who have grown increasingly frustrated by an institutionalized glass ceiling, have left the corporate world to become entrepreneurs or specialists. However, Japanese women continue to face lower wages and continued expectations that they quit before they reach thirty so that they can marry and raise a family, forcing them into lower-paying track jobs.


The Los Angeles Times - January 8, 1997

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