feeling gender expectations in the job hunt



My final exams in my third year of university finished, and in February I slowly started my job hunt. This time, I want to talk about how gender is treated in the context of the job hunt, which has been bothering me.


When I’m looking for jobs, I am made to think about the fact that I am a woman, more than usual. Even though the number of working women is on the rise, I am reminded that Japan is still a “man’s world”.


For example, when companies explain their policies on childcare leave, they often accompany it with the phrase “I’m sure all the women in the audience will want to know about this...” I know that these companies are trying to recruit women -- more women are being employed for regular positions with the prospect of promotion and higher wages than in the past (sougoushoku, as opposed to clerical positions, ippanshoku). But behind those words, there is an assumption that childcare is a woman’s job. And I think men care about childcare leave as well -- in Japan, it’s still rare for men to ask for childcare leave and there’s pressure on men to work. If companies could convey their message from the perspective that childcare is a collaborative effort between partners rather than just the woman’s job, it would lead to workplaces and a society that makes work easier on men and women to work.


Other than that, there was a time where there was a discussion between young employees and job-hunting students being held, and a young male employee asked me, “Do you want to continue to work even after getting married or having kids?” I answered “Yes,” but thought that there are still many obstacles for women to continue to work. I feel like all my friends around me want to continue to work after marriage and having kids, but the fact that I have been asked this question a couple times already by men makes me question whether companies are willing to provide an environment where that is possible. I think a lot of positions that make decisions for the company are filled by men, so I wonder if they are aware of the desire women have to work. I’m looking at manufacturing companies, and at one-day internships, the manager gives feedback on the students’ presentations. Depending on the company, the person giving feedback will be of a higher standing, but it is never a woman that has the role of critiquing the students.



I feel disappointed when I feel like society expects me to be “feminine” or “ladylike”.

I went to a seminar at my school on how to tackle group discussions. It was led by a male professor who I’ve been taught by before. He’s popular for how well he explains things. During the seminar, I was bothered by the things he said that are based on stereotypes. For example, he said “During the job-hunt, your joshiryoku* (similar to femininity) will be on show, so watch out!” and added “people judge more harshly towards the same sex!” which made the audience laugh. I think he wanted to say that companies are scrutinizing your politeness and manners, but the way he said it made me uncomfortable. He didn’t have to go out of his way to add that female employees and female students are inspecting each others’ joshiryoku, and I think what he said reinforced the importance of femininity. I also hear a lot about how girls should look in the job-hunt -- what kind of makeup to wear, and whether to pair a blazer with a skirt or trousers.

*joshiryoku = A Japanese term that literally translates to “girl ability”. Someone with a high joshiryoku is someone who has the “ability to cook, to look nice for every occasion with perfect makeup and clothes, and to constantly care for others in her surroundings.”


In a society saturated with gender stereotypes, I’ve dealt with them and avoided the constraints that come along with it well. Especially since becoming a university student, I think I have become more true to what I want to express and what I actually want. Maybe it’s also related to how there aren’t any uniforms anymore or how I’m attending a women’s college which makes me less likely to think about my gender role in society. As I think more and more about gender and feminism, my belief that I am allowed to live without adhering to societal standards of femininity only gets stronger.


At a presentation where a company was introducing themselves, a female employee who was asked about the low ratio of female employees by a student answered, “I think things will look different in 30 years’ time.” Considering how an increasing number of companies are newly employing men and women equally, the situation might be changing little by little. But for me, I’m still scared of losing my personal growth in being able to go against societal standards of a woman when I start working. I wonder what will happen to me when the environment that made me feel so comfortable changes. I am aware that as a working member of society, I will probably be faced with more uncomfortable situations -- I wonder if I’ll be able to be true to my values and what I believe is right.


As I continue my job-hunt, I expect to come across more situations where I will feel pressure as a woman, and situations where I will encounter ideas rooted in gender stereotypes. And when I am put in that situation, I want to be able to hold my ground and show my stance on the issue. Of course, I think there will be situations where that would be difficult to do but I hope that I can contribute to a more open and comfortable society without gender roles by doing things like finding a senior that I look up to, or expressing what I think the future should look like. What makes you feel weird in the job-hunt or at your workplace?

Images by Azusa and Yumi

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

English Translated by Kiara