"Sexism is global - not just in Japan"

An article published by the UK's Independent newspaper focuses on the “sexism rife in Japanese business life.”

According to the article, the glass ceiling is so thick for Japanese working women that it has now become dubbed the “concrete ceiling” or the “iron ceiling—with a few holes in it.”

The latter part of the article gives some interesting statistics on the growth of women’s role in the workplace, citing that “A survey in 1979 found that 70% agreed with the statement "the husband should be the breadwinner, the wife should stay at home", where paradoxically the woman rules supreme. This year, for the first time, a majority of 52.1 per cent disagreed.”

However, the rest of the article reads rather condescendingly.

The third paragraph states: “A woman's place has traditionally been in the home in Japan, the only leading industrialized nation where women are still struggling for equal rights in the workplace. It comes as a shock to learn that, on the eve of International Women's Day 2008, only 0.8% of Japanese chief executives are women, compared with 10 per cent in Britain and 23% in Sweden. Only 10% of Japanese MPs are women, one of the lowest rates of participation in the developed world. In the professional classes, women make up 9 per cent of lawyers and 8% of the accountants.”

To say that a “women’s place has traditionally been in the home in Japan” implies that this wasn’t the case in other western countries, when we all know that all over the world, including the other “leading industrialized nations,” women have always been expected to be in the home, and still, the new trend in `househusbands` illicit a “what’s wrong with him? Why can’t he work” kind of attitude.

The passage also tries to endorse this opinion by adding statistics which, quite frankly, do no alleviate the idea that sexism still exists in the western world as well. “Only 0.8% of Japanese chief executives are women, compared with 10% in Britain?” There is no denying that 0.8 per cent is a shockingly low number, however 10 per cent is not exactly something to be proud of either.

An article by the Guardian newspaper talks about the pay gap between men and women’s pay after graduation: “Previous research by the Equal Opportunities Commission has shown a national pay gap fuelled by the tendency of women to slip into part-time roles after having children and work in areas such as childcare and cleaning which are paid less.”

Here is the Independent’s version, describing the state of Japan: “The greatest discrimination facing women is when they have a child: 70% of women do not return to a job after having a first baby. If they do return after a maximum 14-week paid maternity leave, they see their income decline.”

Japan has a huge way to go in terms of equal rights for working women, but please let us not confuse this by saying that other countries have erased sexism. And finally, let us not condescend the ones who actually choose to be housewives—some women actually still desire to choose this path and no one has the right to decide that this is something that should be pitied or frowned-upon. After all, equality of rights does not mean that all women should be made to work, just that should they choose to do so, they are not limited by their sex.

The Independent article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/japans-concrete-ceiling-792...

The Guardian article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/nov/06/gender.highereducation

Other posts by Anna:


The segueway from Akihabara maid café to the experience of Nonaka Tomoyo as CEO of Sanyo must rank among the most egregious in Japan journalism history.

We all know sexism exists everywhere. We need to talk about in Japan. I'm glad if Japanese women choose to be housewives but I want that to be their free choice. Unfortunately with Japanese male politicians being a bit sexist (Women are baby making machines), it seems that fertility is imposed. We don't mean to gang up on Japan in particular, (it seems like you have a reaction to protect it) but why not. If you don't accept are arguments for sexism in Japan, then refute them. If you don't like foreigners bashing Japan, then say why and explain why we can't use facts to reach a conclusion about cultural practices in countries other than our own. I live in Japan, and it seems to me that women have more opportunities to be prostitutes than managers; I have a problem with that.

I don't understand why a woman would think articles that point out sexism in Japan is condescending (because it is a system created by men). Rather than being angry at the West for pointing out that women's rights have not progressed as far in Japan as they have in the West, why not direct your energies at changing the situation? Most of us want to see Japanese women become more independent and empowered individuals, but if the women themselves continue to think that being a housewife who collects her husband's paycheck is the epitome of women's existence, then nothing can be changed.