The opinions expressed by Akie Abe, wife of the Japanese premier, in a Bloomberg article by Isabel Reynolds and Emi Nobuhiro, strike me as eminently plausible. If women are forced to be cute and not allowed to be competent, of course their presences will be limited.
Japan’s women are being held back by pressure from men to be cute, rather than capable, the wife of Japan’s prime minister said in an interview.
“Men’s thinking has not changed,” 54-year-old Akie Abe said last week when asked how society’s attitude to women has evolved since she joined the workforce in her twenties. “Japanese men tend to prefer cute women over capable and hardworking women. So women try to appear to be the type that men like. Even very talented women put on cutesy ways.”
While many more women now continue working after marriage and children, “big companies are a man’s world,” she said. “Some things have changed and others haven’t.”
Akie said she supports her husband Shinzo Abe’s efforts to have women play a more active role in society. The premier has championed a goal of having at least 30 percent of management roles in all fields filled by women, in a bid to make up for the labor shortage caused by Japan’s aging and shrinking population. The country is making slow progress toward those targets — a government survey published last year found 8.3 percent of those in section chief or higher positions in business were female, compared with 7.5 percent the year before.
“My feeling is that women don’t necessarily want to work in the same way as men, such as thinking it’s good to be promoted. There is now an effort to change the way people work, working efficiently within a given time rather than late at night, so that women’s viewpoints can be reflected in a way they haven’t been in the past,” she said.