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Gender Roles in International Business: Japan versus Germany

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

Cultural dimensions regarding gender differ widely around the globe and not only impact on how a country is seen from an international perspective but also on everyday business interactions. The recent ceremony of the new Japanese Emperor highlighted the traditional gender roles in Japan and the resulting imbalance of inter-gender power: females are not allowed to become Emperor, the female members of the Imperial Family were not allowed to attend the final ceremony and there was only one lone female represented on the Japanese cabinet. This imbalance is reflected within the workplace, where official statistics show that women are not well represented within leadership or board positions, and gender diversity amongst decision-makers, although very much on the agenda, is still a work in progress.

The woman as wife/mother and man as breadwinner model is still ingrained within Japanese HRM systems and work culture. Although demographic and economic factors mean that more women than ever are going to work, they are primarily going into part-time and lower paid roles than men with many opting out of promotional opportunities due to the masculinised working culture and gender biases that still exist. Compare this to Germany for example, where many Japanese multi-nationals are now considering relocating their European HQ. Germany has a long history of Gender Equality debate with a much higher number of females in management positions, more robust legal enforcement to drive gender equality and more progressive solutions to support working mothers. In my experience, when not managed correctly, these differences can cause business break-downs in cross-cultural working environments-whether it’s females managing in a very different environment or male ex-pats unsure of how to manage diversity & inclusion.

Companies wanting to become truly global employers should be aware of the cultural impact on gender roles and how to align them at all levels of the organisation from recruitment to retainment to create a corporate culture that aligns with host country’s norms. See our solutions for more information on how we can help you become a globally progressive employer.

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