The Business Times

'Womenomics' needs change of mindset

Published Tue, Jul 29, 2014 · 10:00 PM
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A RECENT commentary about Shinzo Abe's "womenomics" doctrine suggested that the Japanese prime minister practises what he preaches by appointing women to key positions in his Cabinet, which he is expected to reshuffle quite soon. A "sexy" idea perhaps, not because it has to do with women but because it suggests the possibility of a quick fix to the problem of gender disparity within the professions by placing women at the commanding heights of the political system. If only life were so simple.

Any prime minister has to work with the resources he has at his disposal. The sad fact is there are just not that many women with the requisite political and administrative experience to be able to handle Cabinet appointments - precisely because they have been excluded from higher echelons of government up to now. In fact, it can be argued that there is a dearth of good political talent generally - both male and female and at both central and local government levels. This may be a bigger cause of Japan's political and economic shortcomings than is generally acknowledged. There has never been a female prime minister (although Japan apparently had empresses in the 8th century). Male domination of the top political positions was not maintained in the face of opposition from competent women clamouring to take over these slots. In what is still a highly compliant society, women have not been encouraged to think of themselves as potential political leaders. They have, as a group, thus lacked the requisite experience to become such leaders and this is why it is unrealistic to suggest now that Mr Abe can remedy the situation "at a stroke" as it were by naming more women to key Cabinet position…

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