Japan

Population: 
127,131,800
Number of Business Networks: 13
Number of Private Sector Initiatives: 14
Number of Government Services: 7
Labor Force Participation Rate: 
65

Introduction

The necessity of women’s full integration and participation in Japan’s economy has become apparent; the third largest economy in the world, Japan is also the fastest-aging economy in history.  More...

The necessity of women’s full integration and participation in Japan’s economy became apparent. The third largest economy in the world, Japan is also the fastest-aging economy in history. Japan’s Ministry of Health currently projects the working-age population in Japan to shrink by 25 percent, from 127.8 million in 2005 to 95.2 million in 2050, reflecting a birthrate of 1.4 children per woman, one of the lowest in the world. Japan’s economy needs its women to participate: just 65 percent of women ages 15–64 work, compared with 84.6 percent of men. Closing the gap between male and female employment would increase Japan’s Gross Domestic Product by as much as 13 percent, according to a 2013 study by Goldman Sachs.

Women in Japan face a particular burden when balancing work and home life. Cultural expectations and women’s past interactions with the labor market result in Japan’s rank of 104th out of 142 economies surveyed for the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Gender Gap report. When women in Japan have children, 60 percent of them drop out of the workforce —a rate higher than that of any other industrialized economy. If they return, their work is more unstable and their wages lower. Also, when they return, the majority of women are in “non-regular” positions —jobs that are relatively low-wage or temporary. Just 5.6 percent of employees on the “main” career track—that is, positions that eventually lead to management—are women. Japan registers a significant gap in wages: according to the 2011 Global Gender Gap Report: women in Japan earn, on average, just 60 percent of what men earn for similar work.

Women also face multiple barriers at home. Men in Japan spend the least amount of time on housework and childcare of men in similarly-developed economies, and approximately 20 percent of men ages 30–49 regularly spend 60 hours or more a week on their jobs. The lack of childcare centers has been highlighted by the press to be a crisis, and childcare is even harder to obtain for women freelancers and entrepreneurs.

There are indications that dynamic and entrepreneurial women—many who leave traditional employment due to the so-called “titanium ceiling” or due to children—could spark economic growth. Women make up half of those receiving tertiary education, and 23 percent of women obtain bachelor degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, laying a solid foundation to build an entrepreneurial and innovation-based economy. At one point (1997–2002—the last year that data was published), women started businesses at twice the rate of men. Women entrepreneurs tend to be young and have limited access to financing, using their savings instead. However, according to 2014 data published by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), the level of entrepreneurial intention is among the lowest in the world—only 2.5 percent of the population in Japan will start a business in the next three years, compared with 12.1 percent in the United States, a similarly-developed economy. Under GEM’s “fear of failure” measure, Japan registers among the highest in the world, at 55 percent. Significant social stigma attaches to bankruptcy and failure.

To address the gender gap, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has focused immense attention and policy action toward the advancement of women in Japan’s economy, dubbing the policy “Womenomics,”or the understanding that as a society empowers women, the economy’s growth rate will soar. The components of Womenomics focus on active economic participation by women, women’s leadership in public and private sectors, and creating an enabling environment for women to thrive in Japan’s economy. Women represent a significant part of Japan’s Revitalization Strategy—one of its target key performance indicators is to increase women’s employment rate from 68 percent in 2012 to 73 percent in 2020.

The demonstrated necessity of women’s involvement in the economy, as well as the recent policy shift toward enabling such participation, underlines Japan’s commitment to women’s empowerment. As detailed in this section, Japan’s support for women entrepreneurs can be considered best practices, though opportunities for improvement are found in both the public and private sectors.

Business networks in Japan provide women with an important opportunity to exchange experiences and receive training to expand their enterprises, climb the corporate ladder, and further their knowledge of technology and innovation. Business networks in Japan are plentiful, especially those dedicated to advancing women’s capacity, leadership, and integration of innovation and technology, though there are limited business networks devoted to supporting women’s access to capital and markets. Whether formally, as in most cases highlighted below, or informally, such as through Meetup, women are gathering to carve their path for more inclusion into the public and private sectors of the Japanese economy.

Networks that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

No information available. Contact us if you know of a network that fits this criteria.

Networks that support women’s access to markets: 

A part of the Japan Mother’s Entrepreneur College, this group was established in 2013 as a “one-stop shop” for women entrepreneurs in Tokyo. The Association hosts lectures and training for attendees on career design, business planning for corporate and small enterprise...more

Keidanren is Japan’s biggest and best-known business association, with a membership comprising 1,309 companies, 112 industrial associations, and 47 regional economic organizations. In 2013, Keidanren created a Committee on Gender Diversity “...more

BPW Japan is the domestic chapter of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW or BPW International) and serves 435 members in its 21 member clubs in five regions throughout the economy. BPW Japan develops the potential of its members through...more

Networks that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

Held every year since 1996, the Conference provides participants with the business knowledge and skills, an opportunity for active exchange of ideas and mutual support between peers. Between 800–1000 people attend the conference every year. Most are women ages 20 to 40,...more

Established in 1992, JWEF promotes networking opportunities for current and aspiring female engineers, as well as career and leadership development through training courses, to increase and empower women in engineering fields. In addition to its member meetings and...more

Networks that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

A Tokyo-based organization, AWF provides an opportunity for women in the finance industry to network, discuss best practices and experiences, and grow professionally. In conjunction with their corporate partners, such as JP Morgan Chase and Ernst & Young, AWF hosts...more

An annual forum that targets Japan’s young leaders, the G1 Summit includes discussions on politics, the economy, culture, technology, and the environment in Japan after the most recent economic crisis. The Summit is open to both young men and women and has a different...more

A nonprofit organization founded in 2003, GEWEL promotes diversity and inclusion through events, training and research. GEWEL offers programs for women leaders and women executives, and has recently started the GEWEL Entrepreneurs program to connect women entrepreneurs...more

Founded in 1985, JAFE was dormant for 14 years but restarted its activities in 2013. JAFE’s activities include seminars for top female executives to share knowledge and help develop members’ motivation as well as overseas study tours and summer seminars outside of Tokyo...more

An umbrella organization that focuses on inclusion in Japanese society, the Japan Diversity Network is comprised of 100 public and private-sector groups convened to advance the status of women in Japan. In September 2014, the Network launched with its ...more

A nonprofit corporate membership organization, J-WIN has two missions: to encourage women’s leadership and to promote inclusive work environments. J-Win develops women’s leadership networks at three levels—executive, senior management level, and high potential—to advance...more

An organization of nearly 1,500 female entrepreneurs and business owners, Josei Shacho serves as a platform for policy recommendations, as well as including networking and job opportunities. Among its primary initiatives is the annual ...more

Keizai Doyukai is an influential business organization with a membership of over 1,300 top executives from 940 companies. The group is open to both women and men and is a nonpartisan platform for the private sector to research and connect with domestic policymakers. In...more

Networks that support women and innovation and technology: 

No information available. Contact us if you know of a network that fits this criteria.

The private sector has taken significant strides in Japan to incorporate women into the formal economy. Such movements toward women’s economic empowerment are not a result of solely socially responsible targets, but “gender ‘diversity’ became a clear comparative advantage” in business. The private sector’s initiatives stretch further the sector’s internal personnel policies and include integrating Japanese women into the supply chain, advance their exposure to and knowledge in STEM-related professions, and develop women’s leadership in decision-making roles. The government is prompting business on the greater inclusion of women, with the publication of data on women at private companies—to help “visualize” all the roles that women have. Over 1,232 companies, as of April 2013, had published data through the Gender Equality Bureau.

Private sector initiatives targeted at Japanese entrepreneurs are lacking, regardless of whether the entrepreneurs are men and women. Access to finance is among the most challenging aspects of start-ups in Japan, with few resources, like angel investor networks, that can be found in other similar economies. Fear of failure also extends to banks, which can be hesitant to lend to unproven entrepreneurs. Start-up incubators, like Startup Weekend, Entrepreneurs Group Growing (EGG) Japan and Samurai Startup Island, are few compared with other developed countries, but growing in number.

Understanding that women’s access to such necessary resources largely inhibits their entrepreneurial and professional success, banking institutions and other private sector funding entities and actors could empower a larger portion of the female population and, as a result, boost Japan’s economic success.

Initiatives that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

AVPN is a unique funders network headquartered in Singapore that seeks to increase the flow of financial, human and intellectual capital to the social sector across the Asia Pacific region. We promote venture philanthropy in the broader philanthropic and social...more

A former parastatal development bank, the Development Bank launched the Women Entrepreneur Center (DBJ-WEC) in November 2011 to support women who are establishing new businesses. The DBJ-WEC offers funding and...more

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

Initiatives that support women’s access to markets: 

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

A major group of shopping centers, supermarkets, and department stores owned by Wal-Mart Stores, Seiyu GK recently launched an Empowered by Women initiative. Beginning in 2014, the company solicited merchandise proposals specifically from women-owned suppliers. If chosen...more

Initiatives that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

AVPN is a unique funders network headquartered in Singapore that seeks to increase the flow of financial, human and intellectual capital to the social sector across the Asia Pacific region. We promote venture philanthropy in the broader philanthropic and social...more

Under the supervision of the Service Industry Division of the Ministry of the Economy, Trade, and Industry’s Industrial Policy Bureau, JNB has more than 40 chapters and 3,000 members. JNB has a multi-pronged objective: to collect and share business information and...more

Associated with the international Startup Weekend nonprofit, Startup Weekend Tokyo is a 54-hour event where idea developers, marketers, and designers, among others, come together to form teams to grow business ideas and start up new companies. Attendees make pitches on...more

This initiative provides networking opportunities for over 100 female high school students in Fukushima to connect with study abroad students from all over the world and Japanese business professionals. Participants discuss work-life balance, college application and...more

Implemented by Ernst & Young, the WWN provides its 200 registered members access to training seminars about business and management strategies, as well as numerous networking opportunities. The groups overarching goal is to deliver the necessary platform and...more

Initiatives that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

The Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders (GWEL) Scorecard, sponsored by Dell Inc. and produced by ACG Inc., is a new data driven diagnostic tool that identifies the impediments to high impact female entrepreneurship and introduces actionable steps that can be taken to...more

In 2012, the Center for Leadership introduced a special research fellowship, Migakazuba Researchers, for prominent female researchers who hoped to obtain a faculty position. Migakazuba Researchers are from a variety of fields, including sociology, literature, education,...more

Implemented by the TOMODACHI Initiative and the U.S. Embassy Tokyo, TLMP pairs female Japanese university students with female Japanese business professionals. The ten-month program, in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Naha, aims to foster networking opportunities, financial...more

Established to support Japan’s vision to have more women in the workplace and in management positions by 2020, the WLDC provides tailored leadership advice to women in a variety of employment and educational stages. The Centre’s three-day training session focuses on...more

Initiatives that support women and innovation and technology: 

Through its commitment to support female researchers to further the science of dermatology, Shiseido provides three different funding opportunities to qualifying women: the Shiseido Female Researcher Science...more

Held at the Science Festival at Ochanomizu University, this initiative connects young women in junior high or high school to female engineers working at Sony. The program provides participating students exposure to a career in engineering and gives them firsthand...more

Prime Minister Abe’s Abenomics plan, specifically the Womenomics component, is a progressive move toward women’s empowerment in Japanese society, though there is still considerable amount of work to be done by the government toward full inclusion. There is currently a dearth of government-supported opportunities for women entrepreneurs, especially to encourage women’s access to markets. The Government of Japan has made significant strides to incorporate women at very high leadership levels, including at in his Cabinet.

Yet women won only 45 of the 475 lower house seats available last election, which is seven seats higher than in 2012, but proportionally well below other industrialized economies. In many spheres of the economy, including the public sector and its programs, many Japanese women find difficulty in inclusion and the nomination process because of cultural biases, though the recent increase in targeted programming for women provides motivation for increased government services for female entrepreneurs.

Services that support women’s access to capital and assets: 

A government-owned financial institution, JFC provides loans for start-ups, including those begun by women entrepreneurs. The loans can be used for working capital and equipment, such as...more

Services that support women’s access to markets: 

No information available. Contact us if you know of a network that fits this criteria.

Services that support strengthened capacity and skills for women in business: 

In 2013, METI began a program to provide subsidies for internships open for the reintegration of women who previously exited the job market. The internships pay about 7,000 yen a day and last between one to six months. The objective is to provide women with employment...more

Japan’s Small and Medium Enterprise Agency established the Sougyou School with 300 locations around Japan. The School aims to build the capacity of people who want to start their own enterprises, including the Basic Course, where attendees learn about business practices...more

Services that support women’s leadership, voice and agency: 

Specific measures for enhancement of women’s participation and advancement were incorporated in the Japanese Revitalization Strategy in June 2013 and revised in June 2014. Under this strategy,...more

Prime Minister Abe has prioritized women’s integration in domestic public leadership. As of early 2015, there were four female cabinet members, including the Minister of Justice; Chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission and State for Disaster Management; the...more

Services that support women and innovation and technology: 

The 4th Science and Technology Basic Plan, decided by the Cabinet in August 2011, set a goal to increase the percentage of female researchers in the natural science field to 30 percent. The ...more

The Ministry has implemented the Support for Female Researchers program since 2011. Through this program, the Ministry has provided subsidies to universities and...more