Women, Foreigners Can Help Japan Globalize: Sinhaby Opinion Express August 1, 2014 0 comments
Japan has long had a conveniently homogenous, organized and large consumer market, which is why the country has tended to be less inclined to inter- act globally except through limited, though large, channels of exports and financing.
Now Japanese companies face increasing competition from multinational firms that enjoy global advantages. Globalization is thus a pressing challenge for Japan. Perhaps its biggest task is to develop globally minded per- sonnel, which means fostering diversity and inclusion (D&I), something at which homogenous Japan has not traditionally excelled. Globalization also requires entrepreneurship and dynamism, while Japan tends to place an extremely high value on organization and institutions. I serve on the board of NPO GEWEL, which promotes D&I, and especially entrepreneurship, among women and foreigners in Japan.
Japanese women tend to be more globally minded than the men in many ways: More women than men study foreign languages in Japan, and they are more frequent overseas travellers. Many women are also more open-minded toward foreign cultures. And people who come to Japan themselves tend to be globalist and entrepreneurial, having taken a risk by leaving home.
Evidently, given those broad traits, women and foreigners in Japan could be an effective platform for globalization for companies here. Unfortunately, they also face various obstacles in starting new businesses.
Women trying to start a company in Japan are often asked what their husbands do for a living when trying to obtain financing. In the corporate world, the glass ceiling for Japanese women tends to be particularly thick. Foreigners face similar difficulties raising funds, in addition to linguistic and cultural challenges breaking into Japan’s clubby business circles.
At a recent forum organized by GEWEL on the topic, we had the Development Bank of Japan give a presentation on its Women Entrepreneurs’ Business Plan Contest. The DBJ last year set up a Women Entrepreneurs Center that awarded 10 million yen to the person with the winning business plan, which was for a logistics business specializing in agricultural products. At the forum, the Japan Finance Corporation also spoke of its financing facilities for entrepreneurs and how they are available to all, including women and foreigners. Kansai University Professor Masumi Shiraishi spoke of the difficulties female entrepreneurs face in society, but also discussed the advantages women have in the form of better insights into human and societal needs. Today I had a meeting with a billigual woman who holds an executive post at the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry and is working on promot- ing Japanese industry overseas. She was excited to learn that India’s new ambassador to Japan is a woman. A senior official at the male-dominated ministry recently told me that these days, nearly one out of three of the ministry’s new hires is a woman, a very welcome change as globalization is its main challenge.
Another colleague of mine at GEWEL, a woman who serves on the board at a Japanese corporation, points out how the company’s international department now has many women and foreigners, consistent with the many requests I get from Japanese companies looking for foreign human resources.
Given that Japan is seriously considering the need for major change, I hope the country makes full use of the strengths of women and foreigners to meet the demands of the time.
– Sanjeev Sinha, (President, Sun and Sands Group)