It’s all very well for Japan Inc. to lure more women into the workforce, but getting them to shine as managers is hard in this male-dominated business culture.
Seminars, such as one in Tokyo in late May, are helping to change that. Around 40 women in their 30s and 40s attended the event, titled “How to behave as a female business leader,” which was organized by major publisher President Inc.
“Are you placing your hand on your knees and looking small during meetings? That will make you look like a kokeshi (wooden) doll,” said instructor Kaori Yano.
“Place your hand on the table and stretch your elbows like a news anchor. That will make you appear larger and more confident,” she said.
Women must make extra effort to appear confident at meetings or their opinions will be ignored, Yano said.
Another piece of advice dealt with how managers should position themselves when speaking to individuals in their sections. Don’t face the subordinate directly, but turn 90 degrees away, she said.
“If the subordinates fold their arms or hold documents in front of them, that might mean you are standing too close,” she added.
The advice found willing ears.
“I was always frustrated because it was always men’s proposals that got accepted, even if I had a similar idea,” a 32-year-old manager at the seminar said.
One 59-year-old female executive said she learned a lot from the event.
“I learned about the psychology and behavioral patterns of people. I’d like to use this experience in business negotiations,” she said.
Another area where people are eager for advice is in how to dress.
Tokyo-based management consultancy i-mam recently hired stylist Iseko Takano to give its staff lessons on how to dress for success. Takano’s clients range from celebrities to business executives.
Takano said simple ladies’ shoes with a back strap are considered informal, adding that men should refrain from wearing black suits to the office.
“In business, it’s desirable to choose clothes based on how you want to be seen by the others, rather than wearing what you like,” she said.
Takano advised one female staffer to wear a tighter skirt, with the result that she looked sharper.
“People were surprised to see me. I feel tense and motivated,” the staffer said.
The science is subtle but important, experts say.
“Hairstyle, fashion, posture and how workers walk and sit are often considered secondary, but they are important, especially in business situations where you must apologize to others,” said Keiko Ishikawa, director of Risk Managers and Consultants Association of Japan, a nonprofit organization that gives advise on business behavior and clothes. “Errors in such detail could result in huge business failures.”
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