SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Gender, Equality and Employment in Japan: Reflections on three decades of equality

Helen Macnaughtan (SOAS, University of London), Peter Matanle (University of Sheffield). Machiko Osawa (Japan Women's University), Jun Imai (Hokkaido University)

Date: 7 September 2017Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 7 September 2017Time: 8:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)

Type of Event: Symposium


A movement toward gender equality in employment in Japan has been underway for some thirty years, since the enactment of the 1986 Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL).  This presents an opportunity to investigate the progress of gender equality over the last three decades as well as assess the current employment environment for both men and women in Japan.  This symposium brings together four established scholars from the UK and Japan, offering insight into the challenges facing both sexes as they negotiate work in contemporary Japan.


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Gender, Equality and Employment in Japan: Reflections on three decades of equality

Speaker Biographies

Helen Macnaughton

Helen Macnaughtan is Chair of the Japan Research Centre (JRC) and Senior Lecturer in International Business and Management for Japan at SOAS University of London.  Her research interests focus on a range of topics relating to gender, society and sport in Japan, including the history of women and work and the gendering of employment in Japan.

An Overview of 30 years of Gender Equality Legislation in Japan: Progress for Women and Work?  Helen Macnaughtan  (SOAS University of London)

The ongoing focus on expanding women’s employment since the implementation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) in 1986 is promoting a universal ideal that seeks to harness a dividend from gender equality.  However, the post-war Japanese employment system at its core harnesses a gender dividend of difference and a division of labour by sex.  This tension impacts on the degree to which government policy and a movement for gender equality can bring advancement for working women (and men) in Japan.

Machiko Osawa

Machiko Osawa is Professor of Economics at Japan Women’s University and Director of the Research Institute for Women and Careers. Her research interests are human capital and family formation in Japan, women's employment and growth of non-standard work arrangements in Japan in comparative perspective.

What’s Holding Back Japanese Women? Machiko Osawa  (Japan Women’s University)

Despite the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, the gender wage gap remains high in Japan.  Women are overrepresented in the ranks of non-regular workers, few managers or board members are women, and too often women face a choice between raising a family or pursuing a career as the social infrastructure and corporate policies necessary to enable them to juggle both roles, and receive help from their spouses, is inadequate compared to societies where this is a norm. Current corporate and government policies continue to marginalise women and fail to tap into their talent, at great cost to society and to women who struggle with thwarted ambitions.

Peter Matanle

Peter Matanle is Senior Lecturer and Director of Research and Innovation at the School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield. His research interests are in the social and cultural geography of East Asian development, including research on the theory and practice of permanent employment in large organizations, and work and its representation in popular culture.

The Second Sexism Revisited: Achieving Genuine Gender Equality in Japan through Understanding Male Experiences of Regular Employment.  Peter Matanle  (University of Sheffield)

Regular employment in Japan discriminates against men in ways that compel many of them to go on to discriminate against women.  This is a consequence of everyday practices and unconscious workplace biases.  Men are neglected in the debate on gender equality in Japan, and there is structured discrimination against men in society which then has broader implications for gender and employment overall.  Uncovering sexist bias against men will, consequently, contribute to resolving employment practices that are prejudiced against women.

Jun Imai

Jun Imai is Associate Professor of Sociology in the School of Letters at Hokkaido University. His research interests are in the fields of comparative employment relations, economy and organizations, and gender relations.

Struggling in an Emasculated Life-Course: the experiences of men in non-regular employment in Japan.  Jun Imai  (Hokkaido University)

The structural and deregulatory reforms of the Japanese labour market in the last two decades put many young men into non-regular employment.  Although this was expected to loosen the gender order that supported the employment-welfare regime, it has instead stigmatised men in these positions vis-à-vis hegemonic salaryman masculinity.



Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre

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Contact Tel: +44 (0) 20 7898 4893

Sponsor: Toshiba International Foundation