From Us to You, Global Observations, Travel

Gender and the Workplace

It’s hard to understand why things are the way they are without knowing how they were. This is no small undertaking. Maybe starting with looking at how people lived and worked in Japan one or two generations ago will help to unpack the way gender differences play out in the workplace today. Family structures and the expectations placed on an individual simply because of their gender are affected by the work environment. Or did these expectations from the workplace affect family and gender roles? Chicken or egg?

It’s been my impression so far that as almost futuristic as we want to think Japan is, it’s actually hung onto family traditions with a firm grip. Not long ago, and still today, it was common for individuals to live with their parents past the age of eighteen (gasp!) because of the financial strain of rent and university tuition. Women and men get married (LGBTQ+ rights are a whole other kettle of fish), men are to be seen as the heroic breadwinners often needing to work long hours, and women are to bear and raise children, run the household, take care of their husband and then tend to their ageing parents after hopefully some years of childcare from them. If women were employed before having children, it was difficult for them to go back to work after starting a family. Some have seen many benefits to this type of lifestyle, others have and will not. Personally, I feel people should be able to make the choice to opt-in or out of this framework.

It seems that many women are opting out of marriage altogether. It may be so they can continue on their chosen career path without facing the challenges of trying to obtain work after children. Maternity leave can cause a gap in their career path, making it harder to get back to where they were before (though this is beginning to change). If they are choosing not to have children, marriage may hold different value altogether. Has this trend developed as a carry-over from children being raised without the influence of their hard-working but absent fathers, perhaps resulting in a generation who are at a loss with how to be good partners from day one? Are women stuck between a rock and a hard place, needing to choose between marriage and a family or a stress inducing life with their career? Does she automatically have to choose jobs such as in administration that offer reduced hours but also reduced pay? What if a couple would like to split family responsibilities equally, or the father would like to stay at home and raise the children?

Continuing to enforce gender roles established decades ago limits individuals’ potential, period. It hinders the type of work they want to do, how they would like to structure their family and the role they play in their children’s lives if they want to have children at all. It does seem like there are shifts happening towards a more inclusive society, albeit slowly. To quote a new friend on the topic, “Mom says if she was born in this generation, she would not get married (laughs). At least my mom gets me”.

By Megan Katz

On a one-way ticket, Megan is taking time to follow her curiosity literally. Fortunate enough to be on unfamiliar soil, she is keeping her senses clear and her wit sharp. As a maker, dancer and enthusiastic conversationalist, she is seeking meaningful ways to move through new spaces. Endlessly fascinated by human behaviour, local food and cultural norms, stay tuned as Megan shares her thoughts navigating newfound perceptions and impressions