Ethical Performance
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Japanese companies to ramp up publication of data on female promotion

October 2013

Today, more than 25 years since Japan enacted its Equal Opportunity Law in 1986, women hold only 11% of managerial positions in the Japanese business world, according to the 2013 government White Paper on gender equality released by the Cabinet Office. In comparison, women hold 43 % of managerial positions in the USA, 38.7% in France, 35.7% in the UK, and 52.7% in the Philippines, according to the White Paper.

Japan’s gender problem is not limited to managerial roles. Overall, in 2010, 48.5% of women participated in the labour force, one of the lowest numbers among OECD countries.

Traditional Japanese thinking has always been that women should stay at home after marriage. Accordingly, about 60% of married women quit or change their job. Gender stereotyping is still common in Japan and women themselves express lower levels of ambition to reach executive level. Japan thus has one of the lowest levels of female board representation in Asia.

For the government, the problem is that the low rate of participation limits GDP growth and hinders innovation. Thus, successive governments have sought solutions but only made small progress.

The latest steps should nudge business in the right direction by requiring publicly listed firms to disclose more information on the appointment of women to senior positions, such as directors and auditors.

The information is part of mandatory reporting on corporate governance requested by the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), four other stock exchanges, and the Cabinet Office.

According to the government, about 54 firms had included such information in their regular reports as of June 23. A TSE official said more than 10% of the roughly 3,600 publicly listed firms in Japan have taken some action to comply with the rules.

For example, Nissen Holdings Co., a mail order company, disclosed in its report that one of its nine directors is a woman. Major companies such as Sumitomo Chemical Co., Mitsubishi Corp., a major trading company, and Dai-chi Life Insurance Co. have disclosed the numbers and ratios of women on their boards. Air freshener company S.T. Corp. has increased its female representation on the board to three out of nine directors.

Some firms are also announcing their goals for promotion of women in the workplace. Greater disclosure is likely to encourage other firms to follow suit and begin moving more women into senior positions.

Asia | Equality

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