At Hewlett-Packard’s operations throughout the world, women hold 20 percent of managerial positions; but in HP Japan, the percentage is less than 4 percent. The same trend extends throughout Japan, where companies such as Sony and Toyota have few women executives.
HP is trying to encourage Japanese female leaders in the company by establishing a new program to encourage and promote women in the workplace. The company has organized a support group for working women to discuss topics such as managing time, balancing work and home, and communication skills. They also instituted a mentoring program for women with high-level managers, many of whom praise the women’s skill.
A primary issue is that many professional women in Japan lack confidence. Although Japanese women face issues similar to other women in the workplace, they have historically experienced a “subservient” role in society. Additionally, Japanese women are generally accepting of this gender separation of professional responsibilities, as well as the fear that assertive behavior is unattractive. As a result, although women comprise 41 percent of Japan’s workforce, executives are still reluctant to hire female managers.
Some companies, such as Nissan, are encouraging female employees to believe in themselves. They also recognize that promoting women is essential for future profitability, with the lack of female executives being “a waste.” The Japanese government is also trying to increase the numbers of female workers overall due to the country’s decreasing labor pool brought on by an aging population leaving the workforce.
The concern of tokenism is a challenge, including companies who only promote for public image. However, women’s summits have been successful in encouraging females to strive for their professional ambitions, which will ultimately help Japan remain a viable participant in global commerce.