Despite the worldwide focus on inclusivity and diversity, it will take immediate action to counteract Japan’s growing gender gap. Study after study has proven that companies with more women in senior roles perform better financially, gaining a competitive edge from a larger talent pool while boosting retention and overall employee satisfaction.
Yet a recent survey on 11,732 Japanese companies found women held only 7.8% of managerial positions, and three out of every five companies questioned were not planning to change. With Japan slipping 11 places to rank 121st out of 153 countries on gender parity (World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020), it’s imperative executives take action now, or risk falling even further behind their global competition. For an organization wanting to hire more women, use these five strategies to bring more women into your management team.
Leaders must appreciate that the best candidates for a particular role are not always active in their job search. Like a great baseball coach who is always scouting for the next Homare Sawa, you need a proactive approach to find and recruit the top performers. Take the time to broaden your network with more female leaders, increase your connections with likely employees, and start forming the positive relationships needed to attract the best people to you, regardless of gender.
With the business world still reeling from the pandemic, use this as an opportunity to help rising stars ascend through the ranks. Does it really take 10 years for a top performer to understand sales before they can enter marketing? One comment that has always stuck with me, is many sales reps don’t even have 10 years’ experience; it’s more like one year repeated 10 times. Think about it, and ensure your organization creates space for new leaders by reassessing the requirements needed in a specific role, or using early retirement programs to open long-held positions.
Fundamental to a long-term outlook is creating win-win opportunities for the talent already in your organization. Recently I saw a highly-performing Business Unit Head offered a smaller Pricing Role after her team merged. Refusing the demotion, she took a call from a Head Hunter and was quickly snapped up by a new company. Immediately realizing the mistake, they tried to win her back with a Head of Communications role, but it was too late. You need to be strategic and consider the career paths of your best female talent, or you risk losing them to a company that does.
You cannot penalize women for having a family, especially for staff returning from maternity leave. One manager who approached me confessed she expected to receive a Strategic Marketing Role after returning to work. Instead, she was offered an “easier” role in PR because she was now a mother. A move offending both the employee and the entire PR department in one fell swoop. A smarter alternative would have been to create a policy and leave benefits to ensure returning mothers have the support they need to succeed in both their personal lives and professional careers.
One of the best ways to learn, grow, and develop as a leader is to have a mentor who can answer any questions, and provide feedback or insights into the situations that arise in day-to-day business. Encourage mentors from within the organization, even if they are from different functions. It adds another layer of support to aspiring female leaders, like a confidant. Someone who can listen, someone they can come to, someone who is in their corner, and can give the advice they need to continue building their careers, outside of traditional reporting lines.
The organizations that succeed in this “new normal” will be those willing to challenge the status quo and do things differently. Taking a more diverse approach to hiring, with the policies and practices to set women up for real success in their careers. Ultimately everyone will win because the additional skills, expertise, and insights these women will bring to your team will give your organization a competitive edge. And that’s just good business.