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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Oct 26, 2016

Training Women in Japan


Discrimination against women in business in Japan takes many forms. Prime Minister Abe talks about targets for women in leadership positions in companies but not much has changed. In fact, he significantly lowered the targets after barely getting started on the campaign. I am a Rotarian in Japan and it is male bastion still. Rotary is a vast international organisation with the purpose of connecting diverse professions together, to build better networks and to contribute to the community.


In Japan around 94% of rotary clubs do not have women members. My own was the same until a few years ago. Every year since I joined in 2002, we have had internal debates about accepting females into our club. The “no women” faction has basically aged and passed on, over these last 14 years.


Of course, there were no regulations stating that women could not join, but the reality was women could never pass the selection protocol because of their gender. Happily that era has now passed and we are now at a massive 5% female membership. The global average by the way is 21%.


Who are these men in Rotary. They are businessmen ranging from small local business owners to the mightiest captains of industry. My club is fill of the latter. In Japan, Rotary just adds another layer to those male connections built up at school and University.


Rotary around the world continues to grow in memberships but not in Japan. Up until 2000, Japan was leading the world in recruiting new members and since then has spiraled down until today, it is less than half the world average. Since opening the doors up to women in business, it has finally begun to turn around.


Facing a steadily declining membership, did the captains of industry embrace the reality and accept women to stem the haemorrhaging of the numbers. No, they hung in there as long as possible to avoid it.


I feel that we are finally getting somewhere in Japanese business. My club is very large, rich, conservative, powerful and the average age of our members is 69. If even my club members can now accept the requirement to have women, then this could be barometer of broader social change and the better acceptance of women in business in Japan. These guys are running Japan’s biggest corporations, so one hopes that progress here means there will be progress inside their companies.


Today, we see our corporate training classes composed of about 70% men and 30% women. Where are the rest of the women? They are not selected for training, because their company’s Middle Management team is still basically a male only club.


There are lot’s of diversity trainings going on, but for the most part the wrong people are being focused on. Giving women more training is a great idea but we need to train their male bosses as well. Whenever we discuss diversity training with Japanese clients they are wholly focused on up-skilling the women employees. When we suggest that is fine but a more holistic solution means bringing the men into the picture and better educating them about how to lead their women staff, we find we are plumbing a new idea here. Leading and managing are different - managing means supervising the processes within the company. Leading means supervising the processes within the company and means building the people. “People” here includes women. Leadership in Japan needs men to think in these terms, because, like my Rotary Club, decline is guaranteed unless changes are made.


We won’t see women meeting Abe’s original target, unless we get the male bosses to change first.   We can skill up the women as much as we like, but their male bosses are the ones who recommend them for promotion or for increased responsibilities. Like my Rotary, there are no regulations preventing women from being considered but magically only the male staff get the nod.


Let’s start with male Middle Management and bring forth the changes Japan business needs in order to succeed in the future.


Engaged employees are self-motivated. The self-motivated are inspired. Inspired staff grow your business but are you inspiring them? We teach leaders and organisations how to inspire their people. Want to know how we do that? Contact me at


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About The Author

Dr. Greg Story: President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

In the course of his career Dr. Greg Story has moved from the academic world, to consulting, investments, trade representation, international diplomacy, retail banking and people development. Growing up in Brisbane, Australia he never imagined he would have a Ph.D. in Japanese decision-making and become a 30 year veteran of Japan.


A committed lifelong learner, through his published articles in the American, British and European Chamber journals, his videos and podcast “THE Leadership Japan Series”, he is a thought leader in the four critical areas for business people: leadership, communication, sales and presentations. Dr. Story is a popular keynote speaker, executive coach and trainer.


Since 1971, he has been a disciple of traditional Shitoryu Karate and is currently a 6th Dan. Bunbu Ryodo (文武両道-both pen & sword) is his mantra and he applies martial art philosophies and strategies to business.