Only 7.4 percent of Japanese companies have female leader

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Fewer than one in 14 Japanese companies has a female president, a survey has shown, and more than half of the women inherited the role from a relative.

Credit research agency Teikoku Databank examined the records of the nation’s 1,175,505 registered companies and found that as of the end of June there were 87,167 female presidents, or 7.4 percent of the total. This compares with more than a million men in the role.

The findings underscore the lack of women’s representation in business, despite ongoing government efforts to boost female presence in the workforce, said Teruyuki Hayakawa of Teikoku Databank.

“Put simply, women’s social participation has made no progress,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

The study, published last Thursday, found that 50.9 percent of the women in the top post took over the position from their husband or a blood relative.

About a third of them, or 34.7 percent, had built the business from scratch. Only 7.9 percent rose through internal promotion.

Hayakawa, who supervised the survey, said he believes in many cases the women were appointed “out of necessity” to fill a vacancy created by their relatives.

The administration by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a general goal of boosting the ratio of female managers in the workforce to 30 percent by 2020.

Hayakawa said the ratio of female to male presidents will have to rise if Abe’s target is to be met.

“It will be difficult to achieve the 30 percent target unless the ratio of female presidents amounts to, say, 15 percent or 20 percent,” he said. “If the number of companies with female presidents increases, it would indicate a work environment in which women play an active role, and if the number of such companies increases, women would advance in society.”

Hayakawa said one way to encourage women to start a business is to create a system in which they have easier access to loans. He said he believes some banks hesitate to lend money to female entrepreneurs because of their gender.

The survey found that most male presidents, or 43.1 percent, are in the role because they founded the company themselves. Just over a third, or 36.6 percent, inherited it from a relative, while 11.5 percent were promoted to the top spot.

The report said the fact that women live longer on average than men was one factor behind wives inheriting their husband’s position. At almost 87 years, Japanese women live more than six years longer than men, health ministry figures from 2013 show.

Meanwhile, the survey found that women were most likely to head companies in the beauty industry. Female presidents in that sector totaled 1,407, or 35.1 percent of all beauty companies. This was followed by the cosmetic retail business, with 478 female presidents, or 34.4 percent, and senior health care, with 2,039 companies, or 29.9 percent of the total.

Moreover, the survey found that Nihon University produced the highest number of female presidents, at 230, followed by Keio University with 206 and Waseda University with 192. They are all private colleges based in Tokyo.

  • phu

    Quotas. When will people learn that quotas are nothing more than a price at which politicians purchase support? 30% is a meaningless number, made up to garner support from female voters. And now some fool takes that and uses a made-up number for his own made-up number (and he won’t even pick one; is 15% or 20% the Magic CEO Number?) and JT calls it news. Come on, guys.

    The most important requirement for any C-level position is experience, and unlike many other habits of Japanese corporations, promoting internally can actually make sense here: Someone who’s been with your company for most of his or her life is more likely to understand it well than some MBA fresh out of Waseda, and gender has nothing to do with that.

    Starting at the top is exactly the wrong way to gauge women’s progress in the workforce. Until they’ve had years of actual fair treatment and equal opportunity, there is simply no reason there would be enough qualified women to take these positions in significant quantities; that’s just a result of the fact that they’ve collectively been out of the game for so long that it will take time for women to put together the kind of experience a high-level officer needs in order to be effective. Expecting fast results here completely ignores the reality of the situation and fails to make any kind of useful evaluation of whatever progress might (or might not) have already been made.