4 tips to advance your career as a female executive in Japan

By Robert Half on 8 March 2023
Estimated Read Time: 3 minutes

In Asia, employment opportunities for both men and women are abundant. However, men still make up a larger percentage of employees in the workplace, and women are still underrepresented, especially in senior management positions. Nevertheless, the number of women in key positions is increasing year by year globally, and in Japan as well, many women are now being active in a variety of industries.

For example, there has been an increase in the number of cases where women have been appointed to top corporate positions for the first time, such as Maki Akaida, who became CEO of Japan operations at Fast Retailing-owned UNIQLO, and Miki Oikawa, who became President and Representative Director at POLA Corporation, a manufacturer and seller of cosmetics. In addition, female entrepreneurs such as Tomoko Sato, founder of Classicom Inc., who opened the e-commerce site "Scandinavian Living Tool Store," which sells interior goods, tableware, apparel, and cosmetics, have also been active in the industry.

The increase in the number of women in high positions in organizations can be attributed to a variety of factors, including corporate and government initiatives to promote the empowerment of women. The Japanese government has set a goal of increasing the percentage of women in executive positions to at least 30% by 2030, which is a major push to gradually change cultural attitudes toward women entering business.

Claire Chang, co-founder and senior vice president of Banyan Tree Holdings, which operates Asia's leading luxury hotel chain, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, said, "To reach our destination, we must not dream. You must take the first step toward that goal now," she said.

In this article, we would like to share a few tips to help women advance their careers in Japan.

1. The best time is now

Whether you are working in an internship or want to hone your career as an executive, don't put off setting goals and making decisions. Always keep in mind the "why" of what you're doing, and strategically plan to achieve your goals. Then, take the proactive steps necessary to advance your career on your own, for example, offer your supervisor more responsibility than you currently have, or take relevant training or courses.

It is also important to regularly review your current situation and performance, and try not to stay in your comfort zone for too long. The longer you stay in your comfort zone, the more afraid you become of change and the harder it will be to break out of it. This will cause your growth to stagnate and make it difficult to take the next action.

Everyone feels anxious and confused when taking a new action and moving on to the next step. However, always keep in mind that the best time is "now," and do not miss out on timing and opportunities by putting off decisions and actions.

2. Be confident

Women who are successful in business have one important thing in common. They are confident in themselves. They are able to speak up for themselves, have a strong will and a unique perspective, and are always looking for ways to improve. They are eager to use their abilities to contribute to the organization, speak up during meetings with their supervisors and personnel evaluations, and are not afraid to ask for raises and promotions based on their accomplishments. Act with strength, confidence, and grace to achieve your goals.

3. Leverage your support network

Women tend to value relationships, and being a mentor or manager is a great way to grow. Find out if your company has an association or group for women. If such a network does not already exist, consider proposing a group yourself. By taking the initiative to make a difference, you may end up benefiting many of your female employees. Participation in these networks will also give you a voice within the organization and the opportunity to mentor others.

If you are already in a managerial or leadership position, make sure you provide the necessary resources to employees who are looking to advance their careers. It is important to create an environment where employees feel comfortable with leadership and management training.

4. Break down gender barriers and turn them into opportunities

Unfortunately, in the 21st century, gender stereotyping and sexism in the workplace remain a reality. Many working women, regardless of their position, have experienced some form of gender inequality. We cannot control what others think or do. However, it is possible to reframe these negative events as an opportunity to prove one's ability. Seeing opportunities in events that at first glance may seem like barriers is the hallmark of women executives who achieve high positions of leadership. These women are always clear about their goals at all times, and they subvert criticism with persistence, determination, and hard work.

Regardless of gender, age, or role, the elements necessary for success are always the same. Think smart, work hard, act humble, and play to all of your strengths. You will eventually achieve your career goals. An equal opportunity employer will respect the work of these employees and provide them with the opportunities they deserve, regardless of gender.

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