National / Social Issues | FOCUS

Cases highlight female students' risk of sexual harassment by alumni when seeking jobs in Japan

Kyodo

A series of cases this year in which female students were sexually harassed when seeking help with job-hunting from employed male alumni suggest the issue is a growing problem, and have prompted concern among recruitment experts and police.

Students looking for jobs in Japan commonly contact alumni of their university to gain insight and advice about companies where they are interested in working, often meeting them in person and, in some cases, at bars or restaurants in the evening.

“I’ve been able to overcome the incident, but there are many who will be scarred for the rest of their lives,” said a 22-year-old woman, who graduated from university in March, of an experience she had while job-hunting as a student.

In the spring of 2017 the woman was introduced to a male employee from a company where she was hoping to work, who asked to meet her in the evening as he was “busy” during the day.

The two went out for dinner and drinks, where the man plied her with alcohol, forcibly kissed her and asked her to come to his place.

“It was all big talk and I honestly wanted to leave,” she recalls. “But he started saying he had a say in recruitment, and that made me feel I should not leave immediately,” she said.

In February a male employee from major construction company Obayashi Corp. was arrested after allegedly committed an obscene act with a female student at his home, while another from major trading house Sumitomo Corp. was arrested in March on suspicion of raping a female student after getting her drunk. The man was dismissed from Sumitomo Corp.

The two people involved in the Obayashi incident had met through an app designed to connect students and alumni more easily for meetings. Alumni register their alma mater and employer, and students can search for alumni according to the company in which they are interested.

Such job-hunting apps are becoming an increasingly common avenue for securing meetings with alumni for advice. But there are warnings from those in the recruitment industry that while user registrations may be rising, some employees have been found to be using such services as dating apps.

Career consultant Akemi Ueda, who runs a consultancy firm catering to women, acknowledged the challenges that may face students who would prefer to meet female employees instead.

“Students can acquire more useful information from female employees,” she said. “But not only are there not as many women in the workforce, many are often busy with child care and don’t have time to meet.”

She recommends female students meet male alumni during the day in open spaces, such as at a cafe, to be safe.

Many corporations in Japan are strengthening controls over sexual harassment, but analysis shows that those in place for job-hunting students are still severely lacking.

“Employees should be trained to understand that sexual harassment toward female students is unacceptable,” said Ueda.