Yuri Umetsu and Akiko Suginohara

Last week, Needle-Movers had a sit-down with a professor of International business at the public research University of Tübingen, Germany. He is specializing in a cross-cultural management and the topic of his PhD and further publications was the Japanese career women. He is researching the Japanese management style, the roles women play in the workforce and the choices they make or rather the necessity to make them in the first place.

When I agreed to the interview I thought we would focus on our little movement, discuss the positive steps that we take and how the society is changing for the better. However, the professor was mostly interested in the other side of the coin – the burdens that we face, the lack of support from the government and the immediate environment like our families and employers.

We, as women in general and Needle-movers group in particular do tend to adjust quickly and consider a lot of challenging situations given, unavoidable so instead of dwelling on the hardships we move on, stay positive and try and make the best out of everything. But he constantly reminded us that a lot of things should not be considered normal like the choice to work or have family, the lack of support, the inability to influence the change which is still in the hands of men in Japan.

He was particularly interested in the reasons behind why some women stayed single and how the life of those who “managed” to have family changed for the worse. According to his research Japan is one of the “low-score” countries in world equality ranking. We discussed a lot of women in powerful positions and why men are scared of them hence the reason of their celibacy. Strong men are considered successful, strong women – bitchy. Career men are admired, career women are pitied. Single men are considered bachelors, single women – spinsters. The world is unfair, yes. Now let’s sit and cry our eyes out? No way!

Research interview

In his eyes, Gaiax group was the first example of successful problem solving that he encountered in Japan. In fact, he has never met a woman with 4 children and a successful career, like our very own Yuri Umetsu. He spoke with 5 women in Gaiax group, each with a different background, different workstyle and different challenges but the outcome was all the same – yes, life sucks sometimes but if it gives you lemons, make lemonade (with a little bit of gin in it!) and have a party. We can sit down and wait for the change to come or we can be the change we want to see. Yes, a lot is out of our hands and the decision making is still in the hands of the opposite sex but if our voice is strong enough, they will hear us and if men are wise enough, they will understand that there is no other force quite as fierce, vital and productive as the working mother.

At the end, the professor asked us how we picture the future of Japan and what will happen if women were to take the leadership positions in public offices. We think that the discrimination and inequality take their roots in patriarchal society. It will be a win-win for everyone if women are given as much power as men and if raising children was not considered the sole responsibility of mothers but rather communities. “It takes a village to raise a child”. We should all remember that.

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