Female Engineers in Japan
Engineering professions and Japan, both are not exactly associated with equal opportunities for women, but is this image still accurate?
When you look at employee statistics of Japan’s big car manufacturers it might not be obvious at first sight, but if you put engineering and Japan together, you get a country that is eager to attract women engineers.
Why companies are hiring female engineers
Over the last years many companies started to actively reach out to more women, and here’s why.
The labor shortage in Japan is becoming a big problem in Japan, which will be short 3.690.000 engineers by 2020! All across Japan, companies are looking for women to step up, an in the past often underrepresented segment of Japan’s workforce.
Companies realize that they have been missing out on a lot of talent in the past. In addition to the hard skills, many think women to be better communicators. More female staff, more skilled facilitators, higher success rate of internal teamwork and whole projects.
Japanese companies for the longest time focused on functionality. Despite their high-quality Japanese products have in recent years lost popularity because they couldn’t keep up with competitors in terms of design and usability. More female engineers are expected to bring new ideas, and also add insights on what female users are looking for in products.3>
What is done to make it better work environments
There are many opportunities for engineers in Japan. Fields like programming and network engineering even offer positions for graduates without previous knowledge. But what are companies doing to create a welcoming work environment for women?
Steps are taken to make it easier for women to manage work and family. Especially in IT and web companies the possibilities for remote work or flextime are increasing. Big manufacturers face more hurdles to cut down the late hours. To make up for it they are coming up with other options, some offering kindergarten spots, and overnight-care.
Whether it is the expectation that a woman will quit once married or a comment on her looks, outdated gender-roles remain the elephant in the office. Many companies are taking a stance against resulting sexism, some even asking employees who find it difficult to get on board to consider employment elsewhere.
Young Japanese women are not staying at home anymore, they want careers. While some mostly male-run companies are realizing the need for change only now, other companies like Nissan and many web companies started ten years ago to create an environment that encourages women to pursue their careers and take over management roles.
Japan’s work and business culture is at a turning point. The younger generations are holding more progressive values and attitudes towards work. As their influence increases, so will company reforms improving the work environment and the promotion or equal opportunity.
But lasting change will require more than a corporate guideline. It needs women and foreigners who speak up and address issues they encounter. Only when taking an active part in shaping the process, a truly welcoming and not just well-meant future can be created.