Japanese Businesswomen Find Bullet-Proof Glass Ceiling

Not that kind of working woman.

From The New York Times
By Martin Fackler

TOKYO, Aug. 5 — Yukako Kurose joined the work force in 1986, a year after Japan passed its first equal opportunity law. Like other career-minded young women, she hoped the law would open doors. But her promising career at a department-store corporate office ended 15 years ago when she had a baby.

She was passed over for promotions after she started leaving work before 6:30 each evening to pick up her daughter from day care. Then, she was pushed into a dead-end clerical job. Finally, she quit.

“Japanese work customs make it almost impossible for women to have both a family and a career,” said Ms. Kurose, 45, who now works for a polyester company.

Since the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was passed in 1985, women have become a common sight on factory floors, at construction sites and behind the wheels of taxis. But they have had much less success reaching positions of authority, which remain the preserve of gray-suited salarymen.

Tango’s Take
This is not terribly surprising. In the first Austin Powers film it is said that in Japan men come first and women come second (or sometimes not at all). These attitudes are deeply culturally ingrained. ‘Toothless’ federal laws won’t help. These things are hard to change especially in culture that is so reverential of its ancestors. No one seems to want a Geisha girl running Mitsubishi. But the Japanese have a track record of adopting the best features of other cultures and making them their own (baseball, auto manufacturing, cartoons, etc.) We’re pretty sure that a few high profile success cases will put them on a path to greater equality. American pop-culture has already pointed the way a bit. O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Lui in Kill Bill) clawed her way to the top of the Japanese underworld. And the hero of NBC’s Heroes, Hiro, was denied leadership of the family company so that his sister could take over. Maybe life will start imitating art and turn that glass ceiling into a rice paper wall.

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