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Global Women Leaders

Breaking Boundaries

Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Patricia H. Werhane

Global Women Leaders showcases narratives of women in business, nonprofit organizations and the public sector who have achieved leadership positions despite cultural obstacles and gender bias. Featuring leaders from India, Japan, Jordan and the United Kingdom, the book examines how these women have overcome challenges and served as role models in their professions.
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Introduction: The Japanese context

Breaking Boundaries

Regina Wentzel Wolfe and Patricia H. Werhane


Women in Japan seeking to be successful leaders work in an environment that places many obstacles in their path. One is the practice of lifetime employment, long a hallmark of the Japanese way of doing business. Though there has been a movement away from this practice, much support for it still exists (Nemoto, 2013, 154). Those fortunate enough to be hired into positions that promise lifetime employment are known as ‘regular’ workers and, traditionally, have been men. Governmental social policies, such as tax deductions and other benefits, provide disincentives for women to work full-time and foster a ‘male breadwinner model of work and family’ (Nemoto, 2013, 154). This has led to significant numbers of women being engaged in part-time, ‘non-regular’ work.

Another obstacle is the two-track hiring system in corporate Japan whereby some, again predominantly men, are hired straight out of university for career track jobs that eventually lead to managerial positions, including senior leadership positions. Others are hired in non-career or area-career tracks, neither of which includes ‘the same benefits and promotion opportunities as career-track workers’ (Nemoto, 2013, 155). This has resulted in gender-based vertical segregation with a ‘concentration [of working women] in clerical and low-level management positions’ (Nemoto, 2013, 154). In 2014, Catalyst reported that women accounted for only 5.6 percent of those employed in career track jobs. The report also noted that 65 percent of Japanese women in career track jobs leave within ten years. Of those who remain for ten...

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