Women execs ruin companies, magazine claims

TOKYO —

“Abenomics.” “Womanomics.” One undisputed achievement to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s credit is the semantic gloss he’s given the gray science of economics.

Abenomics is familiar enough and can pass without comment. Womanomics is neatly encapsulated in another nice bit of sloganeering: “20-30,” meaning a drive to have women occupying 30% of corporate executive positions by 2020. The corporate empowerment of women, in which Japan lags woefully behind other developed nations, is a key plank in Abe’s economic stimulus platform.

Twenty-eight years after the passage Japan’s first Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1986, a mere 10% of managerial-level posts are occupied by women – as against 30 to 40% in the West. If we’re talking director-level, Japan’s percentage falls to 4.1%. And yet, as feminist author and Tokyo Kasei University professor Keiko Higuchi notes, “Half of consumers are women.” That’s Abe’s point – the out-of-touch, male-dominated corporate sector needs to be feminized.

But Shukan Post (April 18), from which most of this information is drawn, headlines its story “Women executives ruin companies.”

What?

Oddly enough, for a government admonition with no punitive teeth in it, “20-30” has had an impact. Major corporations, Shukan Post says, have been tripping over each other in the rush to recruit female managers, executives, board members. The banking sector has led the way – Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp and Mizuho Bank have each this year, both for the first time ever, appointed a female executive officer. They are the most conspicuous examples, and corporations, under some pressure from the Financial Services Agency, are following suit. Corporate Japan, famously resistant to change, chastened perhaps by 20 years of economic doldrums, is changing.

So why Shukan Post’s sour headline?

It’s the haste, the rush, that the magazine finds disturbing. Meeting a numerical target is one thing, but are qualifications beyond gender being adequately considered?

Doing some informal surveying, Shukan Post stumbles on an interesting pattern: many women office workers, apparently, don’t like their women bosses. The evidence is anecdotal rather than statistical, but seems worth a look.

“She’s a typical career woman,” sniffs a 31-year-old service industry employee of her 50-year-old department head. “Never married, never had children. No question, she’s competent. But she’s had to overcome the handicap of being a woman. She went through a lot to get where she is. She regards everyone as either an ally or an enemy. She rounds on underlings for the slightest mistakes. The only way you can get along with her is to flatter her.”

Of course, subordinates say all kinds of things about their bosses, few of them complimentary. Shukan Post’s point is that the women who rose high in the generation following the Equal Employment Opportunity Law have had to claw their way through an obdurate male environment, acquiring on the way some personality traits not necessarily conducive to the highest leadership positions.

A 28-year-old in the housing sector says of her section head, who is in her 40s and single, “She’s a good cook, and proud of it. She has a house party once a month, and we’re all invited. There’ll be a dozen or so bottles of wine, and when we’re all drunk she’ll start, ‘Why isn’t so-and-so here?’ Whoever it was who couldn’t make it is then raked over the coals. It’s like a trial in absentia. So I feel I have to go, whether I want to or not. It’s a damn nuisance. Working under my old male boss was much less strained.”

Norway, notes Shukan Post, over the past 10 years has gone through something like the face-lift Japan is launching. Its percentage of corporate managers rose from 3 in 2003 to 40 today, under pressure of a legally enforceable quota applicable to listed companies. During that time, notes Keio University professor Kotaro Tsuru, Norwegian stocks have fallen 40%, and some companies have gone so far as to get delisted to get around the law.

Higuchi herself has reservations about “20-30.” “Abe is pushing Japan to catch up to the rest of the world,” she says. “But going too fast can be dangerous.”

  • 10

    jerseyboy

    ‘Why isn’t so-and-so here?’ Whoever it was who couldn’t make it is then raked over the coals. It’s like a trial in absentia. So I feel I have to go, whether I want to or not. It’s a damn nuisance. Working under my old male boss was much less strained.”

    What utter nonsense. The quote above is the exact same situation male workers run into if they don't go out drinking with the boss, or hitting the hostess bars. Except at least the woman boss cooks the dinner and pays for all the booze. The men have to dig into their own pockets to entertain their boss.

  • 17

    Utrack

    Huh?? Why does gender matter??? If a Person is qualified for the position hire them. Man or Woman...

  • 10

    MarkX

    This is just an excuse not to hire women! I love the comment how Norway's stocks have fallen by 40%, but with no evidence that it has anything to do with women being in positions of power. As the father of a daughter here in Japan, i really worry about her future in the corporate world. I would like to see her move to the top, but I feel it is so difficult for that person compared to women in many other countries.

  • 4

    bfg4987

    Doing some informal surveying, Shukan Post stumbles on an interesting pattern: many women office workers, apparently, don’t like their women bosses.

    Yeah, the majority of working professional women I know seldom have good things to say about their female coworkers, either. Wonder what's up with that?

  • -19

    kimuzukashiiiii

    To be honest there is a difference between the cold career women who have never married and had kids and the working mother who has.

    If a woman has never married, it is quite possible that she is just not a very nice person... which is why her employees also dont like her.

    To be honest we cant judge all career women by the few bitter and mean ones who have no happiness in their life. Get some working women who have children in those executive positions!

  • 10

    tmarie

    And how many monster male managers are there out there? Gee, guess those headlines don't sell papers. This is gender bashing at its "best". Pathetic.

  • -9

    AiserX

    She went through a lot to get where she is. She regards everyone as either an ally or an enemy. She rounds on underlings for the slightest mistakes. The only way you can get along with her is to flatter her.”

    Agreed. Female CEO's are terrifying. Because most of those women often end up with no children, they end up regretting it later on in life beyond their child bearing years. So they pent out the frustration by treating their employees as if they are her children. But because they are not, she will treat them like an extremely abusive mother.

  • 2

    tmarie

    Female CEOs are no different than male CEOs exept gender. You don't get to the top playing nice and being friends. Sadly though, when a female is the one "behaving like a man" people comment much more on how horrible they can be. Abusive mothers? Perhaps they've learned the ropes from all those "abusive" fathers who are never home, never have time for their kids so feel the need to treat their staff as their own children?

  • -9

    Alex Einz

    Sorry to say but i n my experience, I have never ever heard of anyone being happy under a female boss, my own postions are typically self managed so I dont really mind but from all the drinking sessions with my friends male or female... nobody ever liked having a women boss.I would probably think for women its more of a competitive streak and for men it must be the self importance heel..

  • 9

    Strangerland

    One of the best bosses I ever had was a woman. It was here in Japan, though she wasn't Japanese. I learned a lot about business, and how to effectively manage staff from her, she was great.

  • 4

    BertieWooster

    Kind of ironic, isn't it?

    "Womanomics?"

    Originally, economics is a woman's expertise:

    ECONOMICS: ORIGIN late 16th cent. (denoting the science of household management): from economic plus the plural suffix -s, originally on the pattern of Greek ta oikonomika (plural), the name of a treatise by Aristotle. Current senses date from the late 18th cent.

  • 9

    itsonlyrocknroll

    Men and Women do not need special treatment in the workplace, just a genuine 'level playing field' so the best and brightest can compete on equal terms.

    Promotion based on merit all the way to the top. Most of all government needs to legislate family friendly employment policy, coupled with tax concessions to elevate hardship and incentivise couples who wish to start a family, homemaking must be valued.

    Absolutely no gender quotas.

  • 8

    SumoBob

    A 28-year-old in the housing sector says of her section head, who is in her 40s and single, "She's a good cook, and proud of it. She has a house party once a month, and we're all invited. There'll be a dozen or so bottles of wine, and when we're all drunk she'll start, 'Why isn't so-and-so here?' Whoever it was who couldn't make it is then raked over the coals. It's like a trial in absentia. So I feel I have to go, whether I want to or not. It’s a damn nuisance. Working under my old male boss was much less strained."

    Right. All you had to worry about before was remembering to get his tea on time and putting up with a hand on your ass once and a while.

    All this crap from both men and women is just jealousy at it's worst.

  • 3

    GPJP2008

    In Foreign Financial Services there are many, many Female bosses & invariably they are highly respected from every level.

    I can think of one that matches the description of the childless sour career woman but that is out of a dozen or more.

  • 5

    LFRAgain

    This is an asinine assumption on the part of Shukan Post. I haven't read the original article, but if the best they could come up with for compelling evidence of this so-called negative effect of women in managerial positions was silly anecdotes about underling-superior tensions and a barely explored glance at Norwegian companies, then they never should have bothered writing the article at all.

  • 0

    Franz Pichler

    Total BS, non achievers always complain... who cares. Japan as actually every nation should have a 50% mandatory rate or females in all positions to reflect society!

  • 2

    Kazuaki Shimazaki

    At least the article was decent enough to tacitly admit a lot of the problem is due to the anti-woman atmosphere of the Japanese workplace.

  • 6

    Franz Pichler

    From 2003 to today Norway's companies stock fell 40%.. it can't get any more idiotic as an argument... hello!!! we had 2008, do you remember?!! The big crash................. and this guy is a rofessor... get him fored and hire a female economist !!

  • 6

    LFRAgain

    Absolutely no gender quotas

    Horse puckey. Men (and even some women) have demonstrated all too well that if the Old Boys Club can be maintained and preserved legally, then that is by all means the road to take. Quotas -- laws -- exist because people, when left on their own, will do virtually anything and everything to further the interests of their in-groups at the intentional expense of out-groups.

    Researchers have uncovered this in-group/out-group bias in children as young as two years of age, with children actively making decisions that not only benefit them or their in-group, but also result in a negative outcome for out-groups, i.e., taking the non-bruised fruit and making sure out-groups get the most bruised fruit.

    People are hardwired to advance their own groups, which in and of itself is not inherently bad -- at least not until it starts to affect things like a the level playing fields of employment and education.

  • -7

    ebisen

    I once had a woman as a boss - she was the stupidest person in the office, somehow managed to get the attention of upper level management who promoted her... Her stupidity was so clear after a while that she was removed from her job and silently disappeared. I couldn't stand the same situation again...

  • -5

    mitokomonalex

    Nobody here brought up the subject of menopause. Granted some men also go through some rough momentswhen ageing but not as rough as most women hitting over 40.

    The characteristics of women bosses mentioned in the article are exactly that of menopaused women undergoing biological changes that no one wants to experience but heck that's how our bodies are tuned. Women are better than men in lots of fields but management of a bunch of employees is not one of them and I never could understand why women would want a supervisory position. Maybe offering a good payraise without the added management duties would be a better offer for career women. Did I open the Pandora's box?

  • 7

    Mike DeJong

    Funny, I work for a female boss now and she's terrific.

  • 2

    ebisen

    Yeah funny how all the generalisations do not work... I'm expressing a personal experience that left me quite traumatised (think about leaving your company because of some idiot that happens to be a female). Luckily her incompetence was too obvious to everybody...

  • 0

    dcog9065

    Gender quotas are a terrible idea, as you're always going to have arguments like the one from this magazine article and a very hostile workplace.

  • -13

    Mackeral

    The push to put women into work came from the communists, it has failed and is out-dated. Women who work create more taxes for government and corporations enjoy the larger labour pool that depresses wages. Working woman with children must leave them all day with the government education system that brain-washes them into accepting communism.

    Future societies will look back at all this stupidity and laugh. They will have learned how to incorporate modern technology with natural traditional values that have young girls get married and stay home raising the family. This creates the most growth and happiness.

  • 1

    LFRAgain

    Gender quotas are a terrible idea.

    Funny how things work out, isn't it? A lack of regulation in a strongly male-biased workplace leads to precisely the sort of workplace environment that needs regulation in the form of quotas.

    If quotas disappeared overnight, women in managerial positions would disappear. I know it, you know it, and most women know it. Some here pay lip service to the ideas of equal opportunities and level playing fields, but that's all it is: lip service. The modern workplace is anything but, with 3/4 percent wage gaps still evident across the board in all professional trades and women comprise fewer than 15% of all CEO positions, fewer than 17% of all Board of Director positions, and hold fewer than 9% of the top earning jobs in the all industries. And these are just the numbers for the United States, supposedly a standard bearer for civil rights in the world.

    When the current male-female population ratio stands at 101 men born for every 100 women, yet the gaps in employment opportunities exist as they still clearly do, one has to ask is it really that plausible that a full 50% of humankind is incapable of excelling at management? Is society really expected to believe that in a natural “fair” meritocracy, fewer than 16% of half of the human race is capable of corporate management?

    Or would the more pertinent question be, what is it about society that makes management positions inaccessible to a full 50% of humankind? Plenty of women excel in mathematics and sciences. So the problem is obviously not an intellectual capability issue. Women have traditionally been relegated to household financial management rolls for centuries and across cultures, so the problem is obviously not one of inability to make hard decisions. So what keeps women out of CEO positions if not engrained patriarchal stereotypes?

    If one applies even a modicum of intellectual honesty to the issue, logic dictates that the system is broken and in desperate need of repair. Until such time as society can stop spewing wholesale garbage like, "Women can't manage because of A) estrogen, B) menopause, C) {insert other asinine reason here}," then gender quotas are not only what we get, but also what we absolutely need.

  • -1

    kaimycahl

    Male dominated society, holding women hostage in the home!

  • 1

    serendipitous

    The two flaky examples in the article aren't even about 'executives' (the last time I checked, 'department heads' or 'section heads' weren't executives).

  • -2

    ryuusei

    I can give some perspective from the finance industry.

    IN GENERAL, female bosses are harder on their subordinates than their male counterparts: this is due partly to the fact that they got to where they were by competing with men, and to rise above them, they have to be even MORE intelligent and hard-working to prove themselves. This process cultivates a certain personality.

    This is not to say that female managers can't be nice/civil. It's just a sad truth that everyone should acknowledge, and plays to the gender inequality. While I am all for equality in business, people need to realize that there will always be some type of discrimination, whether it be racial, age, gender, etc. It's just how the world works - very few people are successful when pushing for change. It is a lot easier to just play your cards right and navigate corporate culture.

    Finally, I believe that a meritocracy system is the best way to pluck talent - if you're elevated to a certain position because you're a woman, the company is taking a huge risk that really wouldn't be taken in the first place.

  • 2

    sfjp330

    What's important, though, are the skills and characteristics that women excel in. Some of these skills and characteristics where women have the edge in today's work- place environment: coaching, teamwork, empowering employees, sharing information, sharing responsibility, consulting rather than dictating, motivating others, fostering communication, listening to others, producing high-quality work. Males are more likely than females to have command-and-control behavior styles. Women are more likely than males to be team builders and communicators. Employees today want to work where they are appreciated and where they are listened to. Employees today don't want to take orders. They want to get guidance and have opportunities to achieve on their own.

  • 0

    Jkanda

    sfjp330 has given some valid points. I am a Middle level Manager and have refused to go up the ladder. The main reason is my health. Estrogen, over 40, no children, taking care of elderly parents etc. In fact, another reason is because out of all my bosses, the female one was the most irritating, jealous and conniving. I was young at that time. But I thought that I will never be in a position where I would be hated by other employees.

    Hate me for saying this. But I think a woman's place is home. :)

    And for those of you running down the women with no marriage and children, I am not married and have no children. The reason for that is my health. Could it be that the women that some of you have described suffer from health issues?

    As for me, I like my position. I help other younger people to enjoy their work. I share whatever praise, fame, glory with them. My boss lets me be where I am. He gives me all possible freedom to do my work well. Takes note of my sickness and is kind towards me. But the married ladies with children and younger female colleagues envy my situation for no reason. I play along and let them enjoy it. I never tell them how much I wish things were different in my life.

  • 1

    LFRAgain

    out of all my bosses, the female one was the most irritating, jealous and conniving. I was young at that time. But I thought that I will never be in a position where I would be hated by other employees.

    That's hardly a valid reason to eschew a management career track. It's akin to saying, "Of all the friends I've had, the one one from next door was the least loyal. So I've sworn to never have friendships." Your better choice -- barring health considerations -- would have been to choose not the be an irritating, jealous, and conniving manager.

    for those of you running down the women with no marriage and children, I am not married and have no children. The reason for that is my health. Could it be that the women that some of you have described suffer from health issues?

    Does it really matter? Is there really any sort of social contract that dictates people -- women in particular -- must either procreate or provide a valid reason for opting not to? The world population is pushing 7 billion and as industrialized countries inexorably switch over to information- and service-based economies, there is absolutely no driving need to pump out children to feed an economy that long since stopped being reliant on sheer numbers for growth and success.

    As for me, I like my position. I help other younger people to enjoy their work.

    Seems like you have the makings of a good manager, despite your misgivings. No one ever said being a manager meant always having to be a horrible person. Although some would argue that it helps. ;-)

  • 0

    AtsushiExiled

    I wonder who these women are who are bringing down companies like Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, or even the women in the government who've managed to create the biggest national debt in the world? They ruin everything, don't they?

  • -1

    Wolfpack

    I understand that the use of coercion via quotas is a tempting shortcut to overcome barriers to advancement of woman into positions in which they are not proportionally represented. But artificial remedies simply create a new group of victims that did not have anything to do with bringing about the old unfair system.

  • 2

    LFRAgain

    The most common misconception among critics of quota systems is that quotas force companies or organizations to necessarily choose unqualified candidates. This is patently untrue. What quotas do is force organization to stop ignoring candidates that are just as qualified as the usual recruit pool -- yes, males occupying the top of the economic food chain -- and hire them when they would otherwise choose not to, based on such arbitrary and infantile reasons as gender or skin color.

    In other words, companies and organizations had their chance to do the right thing. And instead, they dug in their heels and continued to ignore entirely legitimate candidates based on arbitrary and petty criteria such as gender, color, and economic background. Like any law designed to protect the civic, social, and economic wellbeing of the citizenry, quota laws are as natural an evolution of society as laws protecting shareholders from corporate malfeasance when that society lacks the will to correct itself.

    Let's put it another way: Take a pool of job applicants applying for 50 available positions within a company. Let's say this pool of applicants is made up of 50 men and 50 women, just like the actual gender distribution of humanity. Let's say they've all graduated from top-tier universities and are all equally qualified for the available positions. Then let's watch as 47 men and 3 women are hired from this pool of 50 male and 50 female equally qualified applicants for the 50 available positions.

    These numbers say that out of 50 men and 50 women competing for the same job, 94% of the men applying are supremely qualified for a given position while only 6% of women from the same pool are qualified. Which we all know is complete and utter bull puckey. These numbers also suggest that out of 50 male applicants, 94% of them not only meet but also exceed the minimum hiring requirements for the job, thus securing them the position. Having worked in HR for the better part of two decades, this too is utter horse puckey. Any applicant pool for a given position is never that rich in highly qualified candidates, even in the best of times.

    Men are being given positions that women are just as qualified for simply because they are men. Women applicants are being passed over for positions they are fully capable of specifically because they are women. And this is precisely what's been happening in the corporate world of industrialized nations like the U.S., the U.K. and Japan.

    Quotas -- through force of law -- level a playing field that, when left to its own devices, has demonstrated time and again its unwillingness or inability to adhere to fairness. So we get quotas. Don't like them? Encourage corporate boards to stop being sexist asshats.

  • 0

    gaijinheiwa

    Inflexible old fossil oyajis ruin companies, and they ruin Japan too...

  • 1

    Jkanda

    LFRAgain has given the true picture of what is really going on in the corporate world. I hope this knowledge can be shared with top ranking decision making people of Labor ministry, Human Rights and maybe even the Education ministry to correct the current system. I would love to know what industry LFRAgain is involved. This great pool of knowledge and observation should be shared with a wider spectrum of people. If JT can assist with that it would be marvelous.

    Quotas don't work well in many ways. Simply put, select the right candidates first. Then use the quota system if it will work.

  • -4

    tmarie

    **Hate me for saying this. But I think a woman's place is home. :)

    And for those of you running down the women with no marriage and children, I am not married and have no children. The reason for that is my health. Could it be that the women that some of you have described suffer from health issues? **

    You believe a woman's place is home and yet you are unmarried, no kids and work? How about you put your money where you mouth is or stop spouting such things?

  • -1

    Jkanda

    If I had a choice, I would stay at home. I have to support elderly parents. I come from a developing country.

  • 1

    Serrano

    Heck, plenty of companies have been ruined by men.

  • 0

    praack

    so funny- upper execs now under fire, middle execs have already experienced this in the USA and found that females can be just as good as males.

    it's just that you have to push to break the status quo- that's the issue, once there no one will give it a second thought.

    in fact to the common worker it will never matter- swap one big manager in for another? most won't even notice the picture was changed on the wall.............

  • 2

    presto345

    Shukan Post? Oh, yeah, that tabloid.

  • -3

    tmarie

    If I had a choice, I would stay at home. I have to support elderly parents. I come from a developing country.

    You make that choice to work and look after your parents. You also make the choice not to get married nor have kids. You think women should be at home and yet, that isn't what you are doing. I'm sure you could find some random guy to marry, have kids with and stay home. Japan is full of them. Though I'm guessing they probably aren't the kind of guy you want to marry. A woman's place is where she wants it to be. Just as a man's place is where he wants it to be. It's backward notions like yours that affect both men and women and continue to push the gender stereotypes others are trying so hard to overcome.

  • 1

    NathalieB

    A woman's place is where she wants it to be. Just as a man's place is where he wants it to be.

    This. Just this. And only this. Nothing more needs to be said.

  • -2

    BurakuminDes

    I've worked in mid-sized to world-leading Aussie, British and American companies, and I can honestly say the best managers I have had have been women, in terms of professionalism, leadership and people-management. I hope Japan can catch up in the near-future, but it seems - ironically - Japanese women and their lack of confidence is holding them back.

  • 0

    Patricia Yarrow

    Well, can't we say that men ruin companies, too? Ridiculous.

  • 0

    JoiceRojo

    I think that with these two examples mentioned in the article hardly you can make a judgement like the headline.

    The only valid point is the "rush" to comply with a quota.

    I think it is good for a labor market the existence of quotas to avoid discrimination, the trouble is are you filling the quota just to comply?, How about finding real terrific women that can take that job, in this case you have to start slow, so in that way you can move the tide, in my company, and old boss was really chauvinistic, so often he would make you feel that you are not smart enough to have an executive position, that the best for you and your family is to have a middle position for you have more time for the home and kids, when you are in an executive position often you work long hours, you have to work on weekends (it's a mining company) sometimes with very few comfort (really really cold at 3 AM) It was mostly chauvinism, but also the perception of the old-fashioned guy who thought as women for delicate work and not going full face into a mining plant.

    When we had our first women president, it helped a lot to view women capable with other eyes, of course, the CEO was changed and the new one started gradually to reward the divisions that had increase women, of course there was a quota, but they set a 4-year plan to fill that in terms of hiring women for their merits, it also pointed to have young people in executive positions, in that way many areas started to encourage their women to ascend, because to have a female boss was some kind of having the poster girl for the whole company... and there were a lot of women single, married, divorced, etc., that really had the capability to be leaders and cope with the harshness of the work, there were some cases that did not work, but it was clear at the moment, when they realized that in some other branch of the company there was another women as capable, it encouraged competition, aided by the coworkers

    Of course, when a (let's say) "bad seed" appeared, women could be pretty harsh too, by "bad seed" I mean those that were relying too much in others for the work, just because she was pretty, fortunately they were smart enough to quit the race with some face (got married and retired, had children and use the pregnancy leave - which is six months, etc.) and let others or the males enter the competition.

    Ok I know it sounds nice and good, but i'm talking about a small percentage of this, gradually, the number has increased, but we haven't met our quota yet, still the nurturing of a talent is very different here than in Japan, it takes preparation no only with gap knowledge but also the "soft skills" (i don't know how it is said in English) like empathy, leadership, team work, etc.

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