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Study: Firms blame women for failure to become board members

  • March 8, 2020
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 5:39 p.m.
  • English Press



Women have only themselves to blame, rather than the male-dominated hierarchy, for their lack of drive to break through the glass ceiling and reach the corporate boardroom.


That’s the consensus of a survey of companies without women board members conducted by The Asahi Shimbun ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.


According to the World Economic Forum’s latest gender equality ranking, Japan dropped to 121st of the 153 nations overall, a record low.

Japan ranked 115th in economic fields. And its ranking fell further to 131st in the ratio of female managers.


The Cabinet Office’s figures for 2019 showed that women accounted for only 5.2 percent of all board directors of listed companies.


To determine why the proportion is so small, The Asahi Shimbun surveyed 14 companies with no women among their directors and auditors based on their latest financial statements. The 14 are among 100 leading companies the newspaper contacts twice a year to conduct a regular survey.


The 14 companies are Nitori Holdings Co., Kintetsu Group Holdings Co., Suntory Holdings Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corp., Canon Inc., Dai Nippon Printing Co., Central Japan Railway Co., Sharp Corp., Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., Toray Industries Inc., Toto Ltd., DMG Mori Co., Mizuno Corp. and Secom Co.


Of these companies, 11 gave replies in response to the written inquiry.


With respect to the question for conditions that will make it easier for women to become boardroom members, five companies chose the answer, “Female employees need to increase their desire for promotion.”


Another five cited, “The number of female employees should be increased.”


Respondents were allowed to choose multiple answers given in the survey.


Two companies cited “reform the consciousness of top management” while one company chose “reform the consciousness of male employees.”


As for not having any female board members, six companies referred to, “Board members should be selected based on their competence and their gender is irrelevant.”


Another six companies cited that, “The number of female employees is small in the generation for candidates to become board members and there are only a limited number of women with work experience as managers and with board member potential.”


Of the 100 companies covered by The Asahi Shimbun, the overall number of female board members stood at 153, or 9.3 percent of the total.


But 131 of these women are either outside board directors or outside auditors. That means that the number of in-house women who climbed to the top after building their career there is extremely limited.


As a result, the chairmanship and 18 vice chairmanships of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), the most influential business lobby comprising blue-chip companies, are all occupied by men.

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