Diversifying the Workforce Through Womenomics and Project Management

‘Womenomics’ was introduced in 2023 by Shinzo Abe, ex-Prime Minister of Japan to promote the involvement of women in the labour market to improve and support economic growth.

In 1999, the Japanese American, Matsui, was the first to use the term “Womenomics” in a published paper. If the gender gap in Japan’s labour force were to be eliminated, it is estimated that GDP could potentially increase by 10%.

Over the years, the meaning and implementation of ‘Womenomics’ has expanded significantly. In their book ‘Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success‘, Shipman and Kay describe it as a remarkable change in the business and economic landscape, as women gain more prominence and clout in its advancement.

Identifying the Problem

The dominance of men in STEM fields is a widely known fact. As per the predictions by the National Girls Collaborative Project in the US, women are expected to constitute only 15% of engineers and 26% of computer and mathematical scientists by 2023. (source)

Harvard Business Review has stated that teenage girls are discouraged from pursuing STEM careers due to a society dominated by men, gender discrimination, and the existence of unfavourable gender stereotypes.

People in the STEM fields have to deal with a lack of inspiration from role models, a society which considers them unconventional, and both positive and negative partiality. Though there may be no blatant hostility, the environment is not very conducive to making advancements.

This implies that there is an underlying problem that hinders the growth of women in STEM fields. A single factor cannot be held responsible, and it is probable that various factors with roots in history, society, and psychology culminate to impact modern-day society.

Despite making significant strides in the past few decades, there is still a substantial gender gap present in the IT industry. As per census statistics, the percentage of women working in the IT sector has increased from 8% in the 1970s to 27% in 2023. However, significant progress is needed to achieve gender equality in this industry.

Looking Beyond the Numbers

Japan’s Womenomics strategy has shown commendable progress with an increase in the number of women in their prime working years from 73.6% to 77.5%. This growth of two million women is a significant triumph and an indication that the initiative has been effective. In quantitative terms, it has been a success.

In a recent interview with Forbes, Nobuko Kobayashi, the Strategy Execution Leader at EY Asia-Pacific, emphasised that despite the rise in the number of women in the workforce, the cultural system that was responsible for their exclusion still exists and is leading to other forms of bias.

As Kobayashi points out, occupations that are predominantly held by women are often categorised as ‘nonregular’, which leads to lower remuneration and less stable working environments. Moreover, she notes that women are more likely to lose their jobs than men. To add to their burden, women in Japan are typically accountable for the majority of unpaid caregiving duties in the country.

The scenario in Japan is multifaceted and demands cautious deliberation for creating an all-embracing culture that promotes diversity and offers opportunities to those who are typically overlooked. (source)

The need for increased female representation in the computing industry is widely acknowledged, but achieving it requires an intentional recruitment plan. Cultural modifications must be made to establish a supportive and encouraging environment for women to pursue careers in this field.

Female Representation in Project Management

The Project Management field seems to be even more male-dominated than the IT industry as a whole. Reports indicate that merely about one-third of IT project managers are women, although there is a gradual increase in their numbers.

For women to be acknowledged and triumphant in a male-dominated industry, they must be equipped with more than just the necessary competencies. They frequently encounter comments such as “she’s not typical of other females” or “she’s one of the boys,” which emphasises the additional obstacles they confront in this sector.

The general perception is that female managers may be less dependable due to their proclivity for erratic conduct, increased emotions, sensitivity, and a predisposition towards conflict. Despite not being a universally acknowledged truth, it is a widely held view that presents a hurdle.

It is apparent that discrimination has an adverse impact in this regard, as women who aspire to become mothers may be forced to abandon their professional goals. This situation is comparable to women being dealt four cards in a game of poker, while everyone else has five.

Project Management and Encouraging Women’s Participation in the Workforce

What can female project managers bring to the table? More than what one may anticipate…

Studies have revealed that women are usually more empathetic towards their colleagues, resulting in a more amiable working atmosphere. Additionally, women have been discovered to be more receptive to novel ideas and more dubious of proposed initiatives.

It is essential to acknowledge that women have diverse life experiences, resulting in a variety of unique viewpoints. Therefore, any attempt to compare these perspectives would be pointless.

We must welcome the concept that individuals from varied backgrounds can challenge us and create opportunities for progress and advancement, as diversity frequently leads to innovation.

It is commonly accepted that there are numerous highly competent women who possess the necessary traits to become project managers. Encouraging more women to aspire for such roles would be a positive move, considering the immense potential of this yet-to-be-utilized resource.

What is the plan of action?

Diversity is not merely about numbers; it entails fostering a strong and distinct culture. Womenomics in Japan is a demonstration of the potential success that can be achieved when more women are encouraged to join the workforce. It is crucial to emphasise that women should not be confined to low-level positions, but rather be motivated to aspire towards senior roles such as CEO, developer, and project manager.

Assessing the diversity within our company truthfully is the initial stage towards achieving a more inclusive workforce. What is the present gender distribution in our staff? Are there any differences in terms of leadership positions and remuneration between genders?

The outcomes may be unforeseen, which is entirely plausible. If you acknowledge that there is room for improvement, then you are moving towards the right path. Hence, identifying individuals who can provide guidance and comprehend the cultural and psychological transformations required to foster a more inclusive environment for women is crucial.

Setting a positive precedent for the forthcoming generation is crucial. It is vital to exhibit to women and young girls that they are equally esteemed and respected as their male counterparts, and that there is a space for them in the world.

Womenomics is entirely about the future.

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