Career and Gender Balance
The Emergence of Women Entrepreneurs
According to the “Global Gender Gap Report 2022” by the World Economic Forum, it will take 132 years to eliminate gender gaps in the workplace. The pandemic significantly impacted service industries, where women are more prevalent, and leadership positions still remain predominantly male-dominated.
These challenges have led to a notable increase in female entrepreneurs, which became particularly evident in 2020. Considering the economic hardships and career issues, it is challenging to judge the pros and cons of this trend.
Let’s focus on the background of women predominantly working in service industries. In Japan, every year, the “Future Career Aspirations Ranking” for elementary school students is published. Comparing the top choices for boys (“soccer player, baseball player, doctor”) with girls (“doctor, nurse, childcare worker”), we can observe the prominence of service industries among the latter. While becoming a doctor is a popular aspiration for both genders, the other two choices rank below 40th place in each other’s lists. Gender bias related to professions might already be ingrained from the environment surrounding children.
What can be done to eliminate bias and address gender imbalances? In the following OPINION section, we will delve into this topic with concrete examples.
Striking a Balance and Achieving True Equality
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, includes Goal 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower women by 2030. With less than eight years remaining until the deadline, Japan still faces many obstacles in closing the gender gap. Japan ranks 116th out of 146 countries in the Gender Gap Index and is the only G7 country that has not entered the top 100. The political and economic fields are particularly critical areas of concern. Female participation in the House of Representatives is only 9.7%, and in the cabinet, it is 10%, far below global averages. In the economic field, Japan dropped from 117th to 121st place, scoring below the world average in gender pay gap and the representation of women in management positions.
While presenting gender ratios might seem to directly lead to gender equality, it may not fully capture the complexities of measuring the gender gap. Some industries may naturally attract a certain gender due to preferences or social norms. Enforcing a strict 1:1 ratio might impose unnecessary pressure on future generations.
However, if societal expectations or biases deter individuals from pursuing their desired careers, that’s a different issue. True equality lies in creating an environment where women who aspire to be politicians or men who want to be nurses can choose their path without facing undue pressure or bias. In this regard, it is crucial to address wage gaps between genders even within the same profession, considering factors such as career choices and breaks (e.g., maternity leave). Creating an environment where everyone can freely choose their career path is essential.
The finance and insurance industry is among the sectors with the largest gender pay gap, with women earning around 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, resulting in a 28% difference. To address this gap, it is crucial not only to provide equal pay for the same work but also to consider factors like women’s career choices and leaves. Creating an environment where everyone can freely choose their career is essential.
Correcting Invisible Inequalities
Gender bias appears to be deeply entrenched, from visible to invisible aspects, as evident in scenarios like the scarcity of female CEOs and executives. As women’s participation in society increases, addressing inequality concerning leadership positions becomes a crucial issue.
For instance, the EU has agreed to introduce a quota system to promote the appointment of female executives, aiming to allocate over 40% of seats on the boards of large companies to women by 2026. This obligation covers listed companies in all 27 member countries.
While quota systems based on gender or race might face criticism for being reverse discrimination or contradicting meritocracy, drastic changes may be necessary to break the chain of accumulated inequalities.
However, there remain doubts about whether numerical and proportional equality truly represent real equality. For example, female CEOs often face harsher evaluations than their male counterparts in terms of commitment to the organization and response to crises. Similar trends are seen in employee performance reviews, where men are praised for confidence but women are criticized for arrogance, and men are lauded for thoughtfulness but women are mocked for indecisiveness.
Achieving numerical equality alongside invisible equality that addresses these biases will be the necessary focus in the future.
Hybrid Work and DE&I
Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, are believed to reduce unconscious biases and discrimination often faced by people of color. However, it could also create new gaps between those working in the office and those working online, affecting salary and promotion decisions that prioritize in-person interactions.
Women Leadership and Boardroom Dynamics
According to a report by Deloitte Global, companies led by female CEOs have significantly more female board members compared to those led by male CEOs (33.5% vs. 19.4%). To have more women in leadership roles, it is crucial to provide institutional support in areas like equal pay and flexible working arrangements. Additionally, mentorship and sponsorship programs for women are vital.
Breaking Gender Bias through Education
Gender biases are ingrained in people’s minds from a young age, influencing children’s choices of toys, subjects they study, and future careers. UNESCO’s new fact sheet tackles gender bias and stereotypes in education, with a focus on addressing gender imbalances in STEM fields.