Most global companies outside of Japan have targets for increasing numbers of women employees, particularly in management. And even in Japan where women are often given short shrift, more global companies now have such targets as well. However, the leaders of the most successful companies I know achieve their objective by doing things right that have nothing to do with women at all, and their businesses and all staff, both men and women, are better off as a result.
If you are the leader of a business in Japan or anywhere else, whether your business is subject to diversity targets or not, below is what I advise.
If you want to increase productivity in your business, work less not more. A division of Microsoft Japan reduced the work week from five days to four, closing the office Fridays for everyone, and found productivity jumped forty percent! Yes, that’s right. Microsoft in Japan—not Microsoft in the United States or elsewhere. If Microsoft Japan can boost productivity in this way, so can you in your business.
Once when I made an offer on buying a house in Japan, the owner initially accepted, and then immediately rejected my offer after learning I was not Japanese. For me, such experiences are by far the exception and not the norm. Nonetheless chauvinism, racism, and xenophobia exist in Japan just as anywhere else, and while outrage might be justified, I have rarely found outrage helpful. Chauvinism often masks a deeper concern. What is presumed conventional wisdom is often chauvinism in disguise.
The passing of an era in a company is often so subtle as to create an illusion of inertia, like the pushback from the jetway of a passenger jet that is only discernible by looking out the window but otherwise goes unfelt. Such changes in era are only remarked when someone asks, “Were we always like this?”
On the morning of March 11, 2011, I picked out a tie, checked myself in the mirror, and then left the house to go to Tokyo without knowing that I would never again leave that house the same way. It was only hours later that the massive 3/11 earthquake struck Japan and its deadly tsunami ensued.