Based on our qualitative study, we find that traditional gender roles are in Japanese organizations mostly still in place, rendering it close to impossible for Japanese women to pursue a career in domestic organizations. Our interview data suggests, however, that Japanese women do not perceive male oppression as the (main) problem and obtaining the same rights and duties not as the solution. Instead, what women mainly require is a substantial redefinition of the work life balance in Japanese organizations. In this sense, we define the fault lines not so much between men and women but between organizations and employees.
Furthermore, our data confirmed that Japanese women choosing to work for foreign employers in Japan did so deliberately to promote their careers. However, their career choices were not motivated by professional concerns alone, but also by emotional factors. As they increasingly reject the constraints of traditional Japanese gender roles, working for foreign employers signifies for them the pursuit of a liberating Western lifestyle. Moreover, we found that Japanese women working for foreign companies perceived themselves as outsiders in Japanese society, but also as a kind of avant-garde, possibly setting new trends in Japanese working life and perhaps in Japanese society at large.
Markus Pudelko is Professor of International Business at Tübingen University and worked previously for the University of Edinburgh Business School. He has earned Masters degrees in Business Studies (University of Cologne), Economics (Sorbonne University) and International Management (Community of European Management Schools - CEMS) and a PhD (University of Cologne). His current research is on headquarters-subsidiary relationships, comparative HRM, multinational teams, the impact of language on international business and Japanese management. His latest publications which addressed Japanese management were published in Schmalenbach Business Review (2011), Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft (2011), European Management Journal (2009), Long Range Planning (2009), Organizational Dynamics (2008 and 2007), Human Resource Management (2007), Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources (2006), International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management (2006) and Human Resource Management Journal (2006).