Friday, September 25, 2015

Women and workplace

Dear all,

I have been wondering for quite some time whether it's a good a bad idea to post an entry like this. It might be, after all, quite controversial, since it breaks up modern (western?) views of feminism (as in gender equality) and society. After all, women nowadays are educated and have careers, something that was unthinkable just 50 years ago. Sadly, though, this cannot be said throughout the globe... 

Still, for many of us (and my apologies to those who are not in the privileged position to say otherwise) women are a part of society, a pillar. We can be business women, professors, in the police force or doctors. We might still put off by sexists comments here and there (some not event meant to be sexist!), but human beings aren't known for being kind creatures. We work hard, we study, get a degree and start a business career and fight to get to the top. 


And yet, I have noticed that here in Japan things aren't there quite yet.

Don't get me wrong, women get opportunities (statistically speaking less than men, though) and you see women in business meetings and hospitals and at universities. You see them walking proudly, heads up high (bowing to their customers, of course). There are still issues like the fact women are the ones supposed to bring tea to men, or that we do get lower salaries than men, which is unfair (I might leave that for another post) but we still don't give up. 

The fun part though, is that in the Western world we often view ourselves as fighters. We demand the same rights and responsibilities as men, we demand equal treatment and we get mad when we don't get it. 

The interesting thing is that here, in Japan, I have noticed a trend in women that breaks up with that view. 
Yes, you read correctly. I am not talking about men who want their women (bad use of language) at home, cooking their meals, cleaning their homes and raising their children. Not about men who expect women to be docile and weak and have power over them. No. 
I am talking about women who want to stay at home cooking meals, cleaning homes and raising children. I am talking about women who would rather be docile and weak and have men make the decisions for them. 

Still, we've got some good news... 
Let's see how this really plays out, though. 

I have met these women, and they are highly educated and in their mid-twenties. 

It's shocking. It's devastating for feminists to see fellow women willingly chose to quit their jobs. Don't get me wrong, staying at home is a choice and I respect it. If it is a choice to begin with.
My idea comes from the fact that these women do not stay at home because they want to, but because they cannot handle not to

Think about it. 

The Japanese society is so strict and harsh that children are expected to excel, to study all day long. They only have a brief moment of relief during university (depending on the degree they choose to pursue) and then it's time to work as a part-timer or full time in a company.
And, for those who haven't been reading my blog or the dozens of blogs out there on Japanese companies, or the hundreds of newspaper articles, being in a company is tough.

The overtime work (in many cases unpaid), the sacrifices, the stress. Having to wake up early and stay until the last train, day after day, because your boss keeps dumping stuff on your desk. The sexists comments, here and there, and the fact that you work as hard as your fellow workmate who happens to be male who for some arbitrary reason such as gender earns more than you do. We are expected to either work like a mule or to look pretty and waste our talents. There is rarely a healthy middle ground (if you are a women and in this situation and have managed to find a balance, please let me know, I need to interview you). 

So, women are stuck in companies. Not all of them, though. Some women somehow manage to overcome these difficulties and rise up high, and I think that is awesome. Yet, for every one woman who beat the system, how many are there who'd rather just give up? Even if you have the will to fight, you end up so tired due to lack of sleep and proper nutrition that you wilt. 
So these women who cannot fight, they would honestly rather marry and stay at home.

I am not saying cleaning a house and taking care of children isn't hard work, please do not get me wrong. But those sacrifices are done for your family, not for a faceless president of a company who couldn't care less about you or your loved ones. 

There is a trend of young women who aren't willing to fight a system which is unhealthy, not if they have another option. 


Please note that I am not criticizing these women who have given up (also, because let's face it, it socially "okay"). I am criticizing a system which makes gifted people give up a chance in order to live. 

I'm going to start asking questions to men from now on. "Would you give up your job if you could stay at home and let someone else do the slaving around?"

I'll update on the findings.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Be sweeter and kinder, not so authoritative

Dear all,

Yesterday I was asked something that would be considered (I believe) quite outrageous in any Western company. For some reason, I just laughed it off and didn't even think about it being strange and inappropriate, which was alarming because it's means I'm also getting used to the "not so-ok stuff" going on.

Due to a project with a very tight budget, I was requested to ask our providers for a discount, which is quite common in the business world as anyone will tell you. That is okay. Until yesterday, where I was asked to request said discount in a "feminine, sweet way" because "guys are intimidated by strong-sounding women".

(link)


If there had been any, and I mean any, other reason, I would have shrugged it off. You're still quite new, you haven't known them for long, you're trying to appeal to their soft spot (still dodgy?) but because "guys are intimidated"? Really?

I was dealing with an American provider, therefore I used the straightforward-approach. Say what you want in a polite manner, but without any leaks or possible misunderstandings. With Japanese providers it's different because it's cultural, not... sexual. Men are polite to men, as women to women and men to women and vice-versa. Everyone's polite to everyone, full stop. 
But this? This was the first time I have felt singled out as a woman (he probably meant well, I know he did, but nope).

The more I think about it, the more shocked I feel.