Japanese Company's Cultural Shift for Gender Equality at Work

Tomoko Hamada, College of William and Mary


The article provides an overview of Japanese Prime Minister Abe's womanomics policy for gender equality (GD), and poses a question as to why despite a large amount of GD initiatives, Japan's GD progress has been painfully slow. It then introduces an ethnography of the GD implementation by a Japanese multinational firm (2013-2017). It analyzes the firm's pedagogical effort to correct the unconscious cultural bias to retool the existing habitus of managers and employees. The firm's cultural strategies parallel its human resources (HR) reforms in its attempt to change organizational norms regarding how corporate men and women should work. Deploying theoretical perspectives of cultural neuroscience, semiotics, learning theory and interpretive anthropology, the author then identifies seven strategic foci for this firm's cultural transformation, and terms this habitus-shifting program as MRS-PARC: M=magical messages and messengers; R=rites of passage and rituals; S=signs and symbols; P=rewarding and punishing task performances; A=clarifying alternatives and affordance; R=dealing with unexpected results, resistance and rear guards; and C=communication, complexity and continuity. Once MRS-PARC starts, corporate social drama and critical incidents lead the observer to the nexus of symbolic resistance and representation that in turn helps clarify how to modify the existing accommodation-and-redress mechanism for reform. MRS-PARC offers an empirically derived, action-oriented, process-based, analysis for those interested in moderating the people's referential frameworks and cognitive/emotional orientations for organizational transformation.