Japanese companies join hands to nurture female managers

A number of companies in Japan are working together to nurture female employees who are seen as candidates for managerial positions. (The Japan News)
A number of companies in Japan are working together to nurture female employees who are seen as candidates for managerial positions. (The Japan News)

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) — A growing number of companies are working together to nurture female employees who are seen as candidates for managerial positions.

These companies arrange for female employees of around the same generation to attend joint training sessions where they can gain insights into the experiences of women working at other firms. In addition to finding a range of role models, attendees also can build up a diverse network of contacts.

This year, Panasonic Group, Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co. and Yamato Holdings Co. launched a training program for female employees whom the companies expect to become successful managers. Six employees from each company were selected to attend the regular sessions during the about eight-month program for “female leaders” from different industries.

The course aims to inspire the participants by broadening their horizons through talking to managers from other firms and interacting with women of similar ages in different occupations.

A training session held in late August focused on how management should deal with a crisis. Attendees conducted mock press conferences and asked Yoshimi Oshita, representative of Yamato Packing Technology Institute Co., about her path to a management post, her personal principles and other aspects of her career.

“Are you extra-careful about anything when communicating for the first time with a subordinate at work?” asked one participant, while another inquired, “Do you still have mentors?”

Shiomi Kawagoe, a 32-year-old employee at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance, said: “We can learn about being attentive to those around us and specific communication skills from female employees my age who already have staff under them, such as working cheerfully, especially when we’re busy, and not rejecting out of hand the ideas of the person we’re talking to.”

Seiko Hasegawa, head of Meiji Yasuda’s diversity management office, added, “I hope the training will be a good opportunity for participants to form connections with people from other companies and develop initiative and a hunger to take on new challenges.”

Kameda Seika Co., a snack food manufacturer based in Niigata city, sends full-time regular employees aged around 30 to training programs in which they interact with workers from other industries. Eight companies sent employees to a session held in Tokyo at which they reviewed how they approach their jobs and gave presentations as teams featuring participants from a mix of firms.

“These women are at an age where they’re really keen to work, but they also grapple with issues like marriage and having children,” said Kimiko Uchiyama, who was in charge of promoting women’s workplace participation and advancement. “I hope sharing their concerns with employees from other companies will clarify their thinking about their own careers.”

Such efforts have been gaining traction because some women avoid seeking management positions after seeing how these posts burden older women at their company. In June, Pasona Institute released the results of a survey it conducted on female full-time employees from various fields.

Of 238 women on the managerial track, 49 percent in their 20s and 48 percent in their 30s and 40s said they “do not want to work in a management position.” According to the survey, the most common reason given by both groups was “because it looks grueling.”
Finding role models

A service that introduces working women to role models so they can share their thoughts and become more familiar with management also has arrived on the scene.

In December, VisasQ Inc., a Tokyo-based operator of a business consultation website, launched a service for nurturing female managers. VisasQ introduces company bosses and managers picked from the 90,000 or so registered with the company to a client, where they then serve as mentors or deliver lectures.

“Many of our clients want to hear specifically from people who have experienced the same sort of working situation,” a VisasQ spokesperson said.

In February, Tokyo-based NTT Docomo, Inc. invited a female manager from NEC Corp. to give a speech at an in-house seminar for female employees in their fifth year at the company.

“There is still a shortage of [female] role models at many companies,” said Yoko Yajima, a principal research analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co. “In addition to having women meet various role models, companies should also improve their working environment.

They need to drastically change the mind-set about managerial posts and establish suitable appraisal standards, so employees with time constraints can more easily do their jobs properly.”