The Struggle For Japanese Wome Essay Research

The Struggle For Japanese Wome Essay, Research Paper

It is impossible to judge a book off its cover. Japan is like a bad book with a good

cover. On the outside, Japan s cover looks like one in which other countries should envy.

When we take a look and see that their income gap between rich and poor is smaller than

that of the United States. Generally, the Japanese are known for their teamwork, and

equality. If anyone in Japan is making a outrageous salary they are looked down on

because that shows individuality, and it goes against teamwork. There is no need for

unions in Japan, equality seems to be each companies goal. But like a bad book with a

good cover, there is a far different story behind all of this. In all of the great things listed

above, Japanese women are not included in this dynamic. Throughout this report you will

see the inequality in the Japanese workplace, the struggle between the Sogoshoku and the

Ippanshoku, and how the Japanese women are starting to chose work over home.

Inequality in the Japanese Workplace

The socialization of men dominating women in Japan starts at a young age.

Japanese boys and girls are taught to use different expressions and words. As Japanese

girls reach their teenage years, the majority of them have no major goals. 52% of women

and 65% of men believe that men s job is to work and women s is to keep house (Family

Planning Perspectives,1999). They have grown up to believe that their first job is at

home. One of the only things that the Japanese girls have to dream about is their elegant

and elaborate wedding ceremony. Getting married though can hurt women from ever

getting hired with any company. Large Japanese companies often encourage women to

quit upon getting married, or at least when they have their first child (Newcomb, 1998).

If a Japanese woman aims for other goals such as education, she needs to be careful.

Most companies will not hire women with four year degrees because they are known to be

over-qualified. Usually the women get a two year degree in teaching. If they try for

anything more prestigious, most organizations will not hire them. Japanese women are

socialized from infancy to limit themselves and not be assertive when it comes to getting


If a Japanese woman does chose to work, it is usually a low-paying job, while the

men get positions that pay exceptionally better. Women s wages are only 62.5 percent of

those of men, and women start only 13.6 per cent of new businesses (AHRC,1999). In

these low-paying jobs, there is rarely any opportunity to get promoted. Due to the lack of

promotions, women usually switch jobs many times through their careers. They are usually

limited to clerical and sales positions. While Japanese men hold from 95 to 100 percent of

the managerial and official positions.

Japan created laws to stop this discrimination from continuing. In the Japanese

Constitution, Article 14 states that there should not be discrimination of gender in

economic relations. Articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant give Japanese women the right to

equal economic opportunities and equal protection. Obviously these laws are not helping.

The discrimination is imbedded in their society to believe that men should have the

prestigious, higher paying jobs and the women should not. It is hard for women to be

protected by these laws when this practice has been going on forever.

Sogoshoku vs. Ippanskoku

To fully understand the discrimination that Japanese women face each day in the

workplace, you must start at the beginning of their careers. Since the majority of women

that work in Japan work in clerical positions, this section focuses on clerical work. The

discrimination Japanese women face though is not limited to this particular field.

Discrimination in the workplace starts right when Japanese women enter the work

force. There is a process in which the men and women go through when they enter the

work field which is known as a two-track system. This system has only been around for

ten years, and was brought about by the Equal Employment Opportunity Law of 1986.

Believe it or not, discrimination of Japanese women was worse before this two track

system started. This system involves two groups, the Sogoshoku which are the men that

are trained to be managerial staff, and the Ippanshoku which are their clerical assistants.

On average, 2.5 percent of Sogoshoku are women and there are no men working in the

Ippanshoku. According to a 1997 report covering all 2,413 listed companies and other

major organizations, there were only 84 women executives out of 44,925 (AHRC, 1999).

This showing that Japanese women rarely have a chance of being part of the Sogoshoku.

Not only are the Japanese women held at these low status positions, but they are

also labeled with demeaning names. The most popular being, girls. When the

managerial staff speaks of the Japanese women working for them they refer to them as

girls. Carole Pateman (1998) compares calling adult women girls to calling adult

male slaves boys, and argues that both usage s are a graphic illustration of a perpetual

nonage that women and slaves cannot cast off (Ogasawara, 31). The girl s duties

involve picking up the mail, faxing documents, making copies, and typing documents. A

major part of these women s jobs are to serve tea to the men. This sounds easy, but there

is a lot to it. The girls have to follow rigorous rules when serving tea at the manager

meetings. They must serve the tea in order from the highest ranking official to the lowest.

If this is done wrong it could cost them their jobs. This is the most demeaning and

frustrating part of many Japanese women s jobs.

The Sogoshoku and Ippanshoku are evaluated each quarter. Their evaluations are

graded from A to E. This depicts if they will receive bonuses and promotions. But almost

all of the Japanese women get Cs. This gives the companies a tool to justify why the

women never get promotions and why their salaries are much lower than the mens .

This process of putting women and men on separate tracks and different groups

creates inequality. Japanese men are given every opportunity to succeed in their careers,

and the women are not. The women s duties are to be servants for the men. They are

labeled girls, and must respond just as slaves responded to boys. This process goes

against every Japanese gender law. But this practice has gone on so long that it has

caused sedimentation of inequalities towards women. The longer this goes on the longer

it takes to reverse.

This sedimentation of gender inequality is much like the sedimentation of racial

inequality in the United States towards African-Americans discussed in Black Wealth

White Wealth (Oliver & Shapiro). The sedimentation of racial inequality was created by

many things such as Jim Crow laws. This racial sedimentation has kept

African-Americans from getting benefits equal to whites. The gender sedimentation seen

in Japan, works the same way. Women are not getting the same benefits as men. This has

been caused by centuries of belief that men are supreme and women must support their


Work or Home

The Japanese culture has had a very distinct idea of what the women s roles are

and what the men s roles are. This idea is almost an exact reflection of the Consumer Unit

Household in the Accord Era which was discussed in Shifts in the Social Contract

(Rubin). The woman s role is to stay at home, raise the children, and have dinner done

when the husband gets home. The Man s role is strictly to be the breadwinner. In Rubin s

book, it discusses how this was very much the cultural norm for the United States,

especially in the 1950s.

This view of the stay-at-home mom and breadwinning dad is shown

throughout the Japanese society, even today. For the past ten years the trend for women

has been to attend a two-year college, get married, and stay home. The trend for men has

been to go to a four-year college, get married, work and virtually be free to do what ever

they want.

It looks like things might start to change. As you can see from the Sogoshoku and

Ippanskoku system, women have been allowed to work the past ten years. It might be low

paying and demeaning, but it is a start. Just recently the trend has changed even more.

Women are starting to go against the norm, and they are attending and graduating from

four-year universities. After getting their degree, they are moving to other countries, such

as the United States, and entering well paid careers were they do not have to pour tea.

This is inspiring a new modern force that is trying to overcome the tradition views.


As you can see, there is inequality in the Japanese workplace, which starts with the

Sogoshoku and Ippanshoku system. Japanese women and men are raised two different

ways which oppresses the women and gives men every opportunity to do well. This

socialization process is expressed by the exact way the Sogoshoku and Ippanshoku system

works. Women go one way, men go the other. The Japanese men benefiting from this the


The Japanese women are expected to stay home. This has been Japan s cultural

norm forever. The Japanese women are starting to go against this norm though. They are

graduating from four-year universities and getting excellent careers in other countries.

Japan is losing great executives and managers by this new trend. In the future the Japanese

men might see what they are losing, and truly create an equal opportunity for women in

the workplace and in life. If this true equality comes about, Japan would be known as

more than a good book, but a best seller.



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