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The expansion of women’s roles in corporations requires consideration of work-life balance (WLB) and equal opportunity policy. In Japan, the relevant legal system has been developed based on Act on Securing, Etc. of Equal Opportunity and Treatment between Men and Women in Employment and Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave. However, Japan lags behind other advanced countries in terms of the speed of progress in expanding women’s roles, even though the country has, in general, made improvements with respect to both WLB and equal opportunities. The main reason for the slow progress in expanding women’s role in Japan is long work hours, but this paper examines workplace management in Japanese companies as a cause.
Workplace management has been one of the strengths of Japanese companies and is characterized by the development of synergy and a sense of unity among employees and by organic flexibility that reflects the organization’s ability to respond to external changes. However, work hours tend to be long at Japanese companies, and employees need to understand a highly contextual culture. Employees who cannot deal with these facts face limitations imposed on their career development. This kind of workplace management in pace can make it very difficult for women to perform work appropriate to the skills they have and responsibilities they can assume.
While maintaining their strengths and reducing their weaknesses, Japanese companies must make a shift toward a type of workplace management that enables women to actively exert their abilities─abilities which are becoming increasingly essential to Japanese companies. If such workplace management can correct the constant situation of long hours and leads not only to further progress in female employees’WLB, but also to their performing work appropriate to their skills and position and to having a their work fairly evaluated, the number of women appointed to management positions will increase in the future.