According to a Jiji Press survey released this month, 49 of 100 major companies said they are considering hiring more female graduates in 2015 than this year. That will be good news for the women students planning on graduating next year.
For the many other women still waiting to be hired and hoping to be treated better in the workplace, the news will be good only if further serious improvements are made for women.
The reason most companies said they were considering hiring more female graduates was to increase diversity in the workforce.
Companies definitely need to respond to the diverse needs of their customers, and they need to better accommodate themselves to the fact that a large number of their customers are women.
However, hiring more women will do more than improve companies’ marketability.
Putting women into responsible, challenging positions, and providing them with the compensation that matches that of men in similar positions, will help ensure that Japanese workplaces start to more fully incorporate values of equality, fairness and openness. That will pay off on the bottom line — and not just in terms of profitability.
The traditional workplace with men in charge is no longer viable as companies globalize and diversify. The full and equal participation of women is necessary if companies are going to remain vital, efficient and appealing amid increasing global competition.
Simply hiring more women will not be enough, though. Placing women in managerial positions where they have direct input into the policies and practices of companies is also crucial.
If women graduates are hired in greater numbers without role models, mentors and a vision of their future potential, the impact of their hiring will be limited.
Many companies have increased hiring of women, but have only kept them in the lowest positions with little chance, or hope, of promotion.
Some companies have said they will set percentage targets for both hiring and managerial posts. While a percentage- based system has drawbacks, it will help to get over the hurdles, both psychological and practical, of more quickly integrating women into companies.
An ever-larger number of companies, such as Fast Retailing and All Nippon Airways, already employ a large percentage of women. They are ahead of the curve toward greater equality and a more dynamic workplace, and their effort in this respect should be noticed and commended.
However, many large, powerful and well-known Japanese companies still do not seem to understand the importance of hiring more women.
Either the push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not reaching their ears, or they are ignoring it and remaining hidebound to past practices that have made Japan one of the worst countries in the world for working women.
Either way, those companies not considering hiring more women graduates need to change.
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