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Building a society where both men and women can shine

  • September 24, 2014
  • , Nikkei
  • Trending@Japan

Tomoko Namba, the founder of DeNA, a leading mobile social network and mobile game company, will likely become the owner of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars in the next season. She will open a new chapter in the 80-year history of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the top baseball league in Japan, by becoming the first female owner of a NPB team. In the United States, there have been several female owners of Major League Baseball teams, including Jean Yawkey, who was the owner of the Boston Red Sox from 1976 until her death in 1992. Over the past few decades, a number of female pioneers have broken into male-dominated fields. These women encountered and overcame the situation described by the Japanese term “kou itten” (literally meaning “the only red flower in a green field”). However, there are also some young Japanese men who are trying to overcome the opposite situation – the only man in a female-dominated field.

Nikkei (9/17) highlighted some of these men. Since the Equal Employment Opportunity Act for Men and Women came into force in 1986, an increasing number of women have been pursuing professional careers in the same way as their male counterparts. However, men have been also trying to open the door to “equality.” A 26-year nutritionist began graduate studies at a women’s college in Tokyo this spring. Although the school accepts men as graduate students, he was asked whether he would feel comfortable in an environment dominated by female students when he applied to the school. Men constitute only a small fraction of the total number of nutritionists in Japan, but he says that being the only guy in the classroom doesn’t bother him because he is determined to pursue his study of nutrition for diabetics.

Although male teachers of home economics do exist, they constitute only 0.2% of the total number of home economics teachers in Japan. Nikkei reported on a 32-year-old high school teacher in Kanagawa who decided to major in home economics when he took a course in gender studies in his first year at college. He came to believe that the division of roles based on gender is not logical and that the concept that women should do housework while men pursue professional careers is being implanted in the minds of children through school education. He wants his students, both boys and girls, to cast aside such stereotypes.

Several occupations conventionally dominated by women used to have gender-oriented names in Japan, but have been legally changed to more neutral names. For example, “hobo” for childcare worker was changed to “hoiku-shi” in 1999 and “kango-fu” for nurse was changed to “kango-shi” in 2002. The number of male nurses increased by 2.4 times to 63,000 in the ten years after the name was changed in 2002. Some 6% of nurses, up from 3%, are men in Japan today. An executive member of the Japan Nursing Association told Nikkei that many male nurses are realizing their potential in emergency care and other fields.

Prime Minister Abe stated in a speech delivered at the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo (WAW! Tokyo 2014) on September 12: “Creating a society in which women shine means changing the consciousness of each individual… We must bring about a world in which all people, both women and men, shine.” The message here is that society should be built on equality and opportunity for all citizens — men and women.

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