The top answer will not surprise you at all.

Japan–like many nations–has a number of sociological issues that need addressing, and one of the big ones is the gender gap. Though we’re well into the twenty-first century and we’ve come a long way since the twentieth, there are still some very persistent social norms in work and family life that have been hard to change, and which often make women feel at a disadvantage compared to men.

So what can be done to close the gap? Job-networking social media platform LinkedIn asked 750 women, and got some interesting answers.

The company conducted a survey online in September, asking women between the ages of 18-65 questions about their work and life, but some of the most telling responses regarded the gender gap. For example, when asked about gender equality, only seven percent of women said, “I think we have plenty of equality.” In contrast, 70 percent said, “The government needs to do more to address the gender gap”.

It’s already been made clear by a previous survey that many people in Japan–including men–are aware of a divide between the genders, but what hasn’t been asked is what people think should be done about it. LinkedIn asked their survey respondents, and more than half said that in order to alleviate the gender gap, “Equal sharing of housework between men and women should be promoted.”

This is an issue that many people are probably familiar with by now. In Japan, the general expectation, even if it’s just a subconscious tendency, is that women should be in charge of taking care of the house and family, including cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing, even if they also work full time. Obviously this isn’t exactly fair, as each of those tasks in themselves are enormous emotional and physical burdens, not to mention time-consuming. One working mother who shared her schedule with a Japanese magazine had to get up at four in the morning every day to get everything done, and that’s without any time for herself at all.

Of course, that’s not to say that men aren’t helping at all, and it does seem like more men are stepping up the plate lately, especially younger men. Still, enough women are struggling to juggle home and work that it’s a consistent complaint that comes up whenever these types of surveys are conducted.

▼ Working full time in itself is exhausting, without adding taking care of kids and cooking and cleaning for a family to the mix.

Normalizing men taking on more of these burdens, even if it’s just a little bit, might actually have a tremendous influence on the gender gap, because it’s closely related to a lot of other problems facing women and Japanese society as a whole. It may improve workplace conditions or hiring practices for women by removing the stereotype that women are unreliable workers if they have children to look after. That may allow for women to take on higher-paid and higher-level positions, which might eventually close the wage gap. And it may also help with Japan’s quickly aging population; with less stigma, women will feel less pressured to choose between childbirth and careers.

But that wasn’t the only solution that the women surveyed supplied. Many suggested that male-dominated positions, including government jobs, should be easier for women to access too. 43 percent said, “There should be more guidance for women to take on traditionally male jobs and government positions, and more efforts to increase the number of women working in those positions,” and 38 percent said, “We should raise the percentage of women in the National Diet.” The government has made some efforts towards this, especially with elected positions, but certainly more could be done.

On another note, 35 percent of women suggested that the government should invest more money in high-quality daycares, so that both parents can feel free to work if they so choose. The lack of daycare spots in Japan is also a major problem, because women who want to work often can’t because there are not enough quality daycares throughout the country to accommodate all the children who need them, even with a low rate of birth in the country.

These things all affect women in the workforce, as revealed by other questions posed in the survey. 69 percent of women said that balancing work and their personal life was hindering their opportunities within their organizations, and others said that “societal expectations of housework and child-rearing” (51 percent), “not having enough support in the household” (44 percent), and “not having enough support within their organization” (24 percent) were also obstacles for career advancement.

These factors could be leading to not only less employment, but less advancement for women. Only 47 percent of the respondents said they currently work, and of those, most said that within their organization, most of the women were low-level workers. Only 14 percent said that half or more of the upper management positions in their companies were filled by women, yet another indication of the gender gap.

However, the interesting thing is that when asked about their own career aspirations, most of the respondents did not want upper level positions. 42 percent wished to maintain their current positions, and 25 percent said they would like some kind of advancement, but not in the form of managerial positions. Perhaps these women are seeking more pay raises or more advanced responsibilities, though the survey did not seem to ask.

▼ Many women probably would like more responsibilities than just serving tea to their bosses, as has often been expected of low-level female workers.

Regardless, women seem to be feeling a distinct gap between them and their male counterparts. And while closing that gap probably isn’t quite as simple as having men do more housework, having Japanese society moving more towards equal sharing of household and family responsibilities as well as work responsibilities seems like it could go a long way towards making women feel more equal to men.

Source: Niconico News via My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

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