Abe’s Woman Manager Target Seen Difficult to Meet

Jun 19, 2014 4:54 am ET

(Corrects headline, lead to show target will be difficult to achieve; Adds comments from Sago in fourth paragraph.)

June 19 (Bloomberg) -- Daiwa Securities Group Inc. and Goldman Sachs Japan Co. said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal to have women in 30 percent of management jobs by 2020 will be difficult to achieve, citing a lack of candidates.

“We now recruit exactly the same numbers of men and women,” Shigeharu Suzuki, chairman of Daiwa Securities Group, said yesterday in a diversity forum held at Bloomberg’s Tokyo offices. “That was not the case in the past and unfortunately we are not going to reach the target because we don’t have enough people in the pipeline. Even if we promoted at an even rate, we would be around 15 percent or maybe a touch above by 2020.”

Katsunori Sago, deputy president of Goldman Sachs Japan who is also co-chairman of the bank’s diversity committee in Asia, said his firm faced similar difficulties.

“I agree completely with Mr. Suzuki. It’s a difficult proposition,” Sago said at the same event. “In an industry where women have been active for a while, 30 percent is a target that is possible to reach. On the other hand, in the financial industry and in manufacturing, the proportion of women is low. It is difficult.”

Labor Challenges

The comments reflect the challenges for Abe in drawing more women into jobs to maintain a labor force that is forecast to shrink as much as 42 percent by 2060 as the population ages. Japan’s workforce would swell by more than seven million people and output would jump if participation by women equaled that of men, Goldman Sachs said in its latest “Womenomics” report on May 6. Gender Equality Minister Masako Mori has said the bureaucracy will only reach Abe’s target by recruiting people from outside.

“If people say they can’t do it, then we will never reach it,” Mori said at the same event in response to the comments by Suzuki and Sago. “There are all sorts of excuses about why it can’t be done, but I want you to keep on trying.”

Daiwa has introduced support measures for working mothers over the past decade, include extending childcare leave and shorter worker hours for those with children until the third year of elementary school. That has boosted its proportion of female managers to 7.2 percent this year from 2.3 percent a decade ago, Suzuki said, citing documents prepared by Daiwa.

Science Graduates

The target could be harder to reach for companies in other fields, he said. “If you look at manufacturers, they need science graduates. There are very few women science graduates, so the pool of candidates is not there.”

Mori detailed the government’s efforts to promote women in her presentation, including a push to offer 400,000 more childcare spots by 2018. In a draft growth strategy released on June 16, the government said it would consider a new law detailing strategies for reaching the 30 percent target in national and local government and private business.

Goldman Sachs’s Sago said setting ambitious targets for female participation in the workforce was effective in itself.

“I don’t think we should quibble about the actual figure,” said Goldman Sachs’s Sago, who is leaving his post this month and will serve as an advisory director. “If you deliberately promote people early or promote unsuitable people in an attempt to look good, it can have a negative effect on diversity in the long term.”