Gender equality and women's empowerment in the workplace
Harnessing Japan's untapped potential
With Japan's population aging and productivity declining, the promotion of economic empowerment for women has become a critical aspect of "Abenomics," the Abe administration’s economic growth strategy. This project explored institutional and normative impediments for women’s advancement and suggested specific programs to achieve gender equality in the Japanese workplace.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment have received renewed political attention in Japan. In his keynote speech at the World Economic Forum 2014 Annual Meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asserted that the female labor force was Japan's “most underutilized resource.” Harnessing women in the workforce is a key tenet of Abe's economic growth strategy and he has committed to increasing the number of women in leadership positions throughout Japanese society to 30% by 2020.
This political pledge has yielded significant momentum. On December 25, 2015, the Japanese Cabinet approved the Fourth Basic Plan for Gender Equality, which set forth a comprehensive policy direction. In April 2016, the Diet passed the Female Employment Promotion Legislation, requiring large corporations in private and public sectors to disclose gender diversity targets. Yet despite these much-publicized efforts, progress has been slow. Between 2014 and 2016, Japan slipped in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index rankings from 104 to 111 and now ranks in the bottom 20%. Japanese women are still far behind men in earned income, leadership positions, and professional achievement.
Gender inequality in the workplace is also a reality prevalent in Silicon Valley. While women in the United States comprise 47% of the total workforce, they make up only 30% of major technology companies and only hold 11% of the executive positions in Silicon Valley. In recent years, Silicon Valley has been rocked by a number of high-profile sexual discrimination and harassment cases. In 2016, female tech leaders created the "Elephant in the Valley" survey to gather data on women's experiences. The result was a bleak picture of Silicon Valley's pervasively gendered, discriminating atmosphere. Though the technology sector prides itself on innovative thinking and breakthroughs, clearly it has yet to find its way to disrupt gender inequality in its ranks.
This research project aimed to create a trans-Pacific dialogue about the common challenges women face in both societies and spark innovative ideas to precipitate positive change for women in the workplace and society in both the United States and Japan.
Former Director, Japan Program, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center
Research Scholar, Japan Program, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center
Break Through: Women in Silicon Valley, Womenomics in Japan
August 9, 2018 | McCaw Hall, Arrillaga Alumni Center, Stanford University
Womenomics, the Workplace, and Women: Stanford Silicon Valley US-Japan Dialogue 2016
November 4, 2016 | Bechtel Conference Center, Encina Hall, Stanford University