I am Carmina, a Filipino who grew up in Japan, was born in the Philippines and am currently a 3rd year student studying Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton University. My entrepreneurship experience includes co-founding a social enterprise that I pitched to the World Economic Forum 2009 in Davos, spending a summer at Infosys Technologies in India and serving as a Keller Center Entrepreneurship Fellow at Princeton University.
One of my objectives coming into the Girls20 Summit in Moscow this summer is to encourage G20 leaders provide economic and policy-based incentives for women to pursue education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields and enter the world of start-up entrepreneurship, whether that’s as a founder or employee. The multiplier effect for the country’s economy and strengths of this strategy for women’s empowerment are particularly evident in Japan.
The Financial Times reports that today, women in Japan occupy only 6.2% of private sector management positions and 2.2% of governmental managerial positions. Creating a culture change of a diverse workplace in such a traditional and large society is thus inherently difficult. While quotas can be instituted at these large institutions, that doesn’t guarantee equal compensation. Moreover, societal pressures can have a negative effect on women who receive the job only because of affirmative action. The businesses and organizations would also be less productive because of this.
Meanwhile, the start-up entrepreneurship scene in Japan is struggling. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, found in its 2010 report that Japan ranked lowest among 22 advanced economies in the start-up scene. This is primarily due to the high-risk involved in creating a start-up that drives entrepreneurial minded Japanese to work in large companies instead.
This is where having women revitalizing this scene is such an asset. In a country where women’s role is to stay home and take care of the kids anyway, they wouldn’t share the societal and economic burden of a failed startup to the extent that men do. Additionally, depending on their target consumers, women can really have a great shot at producing a successful startup. This is because women constitute the majority of the consumers in Japan, and thus women entrepreneurs can understand and cater to the desires of this cohort of consumers best.
Having women enter the start-up scene is a risk-free way for women to both gain economic and societal empowerment. As the bosses of themselves, women won’t have to suffer being subjugated by men and tradition in the workplace. Over time, as the number of successful start-ups initiated by women grow, respect from society and men towards women and their value in the workplace will hopefully grow. This promotes a ‘trickle-up’ effect that allows women to permeate the industries such as government and large businesses that were once out of limits.