Women at work: 41% of the Japanese workforce, with a gender wage gap of 33%.
Keeping authority is the biggest challenge for a western woman in the highly conservative Japanese business world, says Dean Foster, head of DFA Intercultural Global Solutions. “Send a letter of introduction in advance from your boss, explaining why you are the best delegate for the trip.
If you’re the boss, forward a DVD of yourself in a suit at your office with your employees by way of introduction. And never pour the tea in a meeting, as this will immediately put you in a traditional gender pigeonhole.”
Tracey Wilen, the author of Doing Business With Japanese Men: A Woman’s Handbook suggests you should tone down your make-up. “You’ll see glamorous career women in Japan, but don’t be fooled – these are secretaries, not bosses,” says Wilen. “To be respected, dress in a dark suit with minimal make-up, with hosiery and no spiked heels.”
Business cards are essential, continues Wilen, but “translate the reverse into Japanese and avoid trendy job descriptions such as ‘guru’.” Gifts are also integral to Japanese corporate culture, but can be tricky. “Flowers are ripe with connotations – romantic and funereal,” says Wilen. “Instead try something corporate, such as a pen, or the safe ground of edibles.
And always have your present professionally wrapped.” Japan’s famous corporate hospitality culture persists, says Wilen, so you’ll be expected to dine with your Japanese counterparts, “but don’t see this as another meeting. Talking shop is a big faux-pas during dinner with clients. Instead opt for neutral topics such as the local area and don’t be unnerved by silences, which are an integral part of Japanese communication.”