What is the impact on Japan’s Pharmaceutical industry with their lack of diversity in its workforce?

The lack of diversity in the workplace environment has been a global issue. It is pertinent to take into consideration that low diversity rates often come with various adverse impact in efficacy. This in turn, impedes the growth and maintenance in quality of organisations’ standards in all sectors and industries.

Japan in particular is behind in their diversity and inclusion initiatives, ranking at 111th out of 144 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. This also places the nation as the second-largest labour-market gender gap among the advanced economies. This is especially prevalent within its pharmaceutical industry where the gender gap is more prevalent with its male-dominated environment. The lack of women in health leadership positions also limits the diversity of views in boardrooms, forgoing the talents and abilities of half of Japan’s highly educated population. It is essential that the country is aware that it needs to take on competitive differentiation measures that will strike an edge over its neighbouring countries and ultimately improve in its position as a health hub as Japan places great emphasis in becoming a pharmaceutical hub in Asia.

Amidst this wide gender gap, leading pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline K.K and Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd are already paving the way in the industry by kick-starting innovative strategies taken to encourage not only gender equality but inclusivity of other minority groups.

1. GlaxoSmithKline K.K. (GSK)

Global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline K.K. (GSK) has already shown some outstanding progress in terms of their diversification initiatives that include an improvement in their inclusion efforts for them to carve a competitive edge amongst their peers. In 2015, GSK announced that Emma Walmsley would become their next CEO, making her the first female chief executive of a large-sized pharmaceutical company. Till date, half of its board members—in addition to 30% of its corporate officers—are women.

It is important to mention that the overwhelming majority of Japanese society still thinks of gender in binary terms. In this way, transgender people may encounter more difficulties when there is a clear-cut line in the gender norms.

Apart from gender, GSK especially targets other areas to encourage diversity and inclusivity in its company. GSK is applauded for taking efforts to break free from social norms in a conservative country such as Japan, making the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community feel at home in their workplace. Additionally, GSK is also aiming to pump up its inclusion stance further by encouraging inclusivity with the physically impaired. This is in light of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games as a number of its employees are former Paralympians (Source: Japan Today).

2. Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd

Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. aims to become a top Japanese pharmaceutical company that provides a continuous flow of innovative new medication not only in Japan but internationally.

Part of their diversity initiatives, their goal for 2018 is to raise the ration of its female managers to 13% through their Female Leader’s Programme initiated since 2014.

This programme targets female managers and other women in equivalent management positions, as an opportunity for participants to learn the decision-making perspective of general managers and others in upper management. Through dialogue and other interactions with management and female general managers, female employees have the opportunity to think about their vision for those positions and the progression of their own careers within Chugai Pharmaceutical.

The ratio of female mangers was measured at 11.3% as of end December 2016 and Chugai is committed to continue its efforts to develop potential candidates into managerial positions to increase the next generation of female leaders.

Japan’s persistent gender wage gap

More Japanese women than ever are heeding the call to enter the workforce as the population shrinks. However, they are not being rewarded with the same type of jobs and competitive salary packages that men receive, which highlights the disparity of wages by gender. Currently, Japan ranks 2nd highest in the world in terms of gender-wage ratio.

One prime example is the swelling ranks of women within the health and welfare sector. Akio Doteuchi from the NLI Research Institute in Tokyo said, "Women are pouring in to meet the demands within the nursing home industry, where wages are low." Currently, female doctors are still a minority in high ranking positions within the field of medicine. A large body of research suggests that many impediments still exist and that includes domestic responsibilities, leading to a discrimination in hiring alongside other structured inflexibilities within the working environment.

In a study done by the Graduate School of Medicine, Hokkaido University, female doctors in Japan are worried about their ability to safeguard their jobs if they were to form families such as getting married and having children. This is coupled with the stress to be up-to-date with new knowledge and skillsets of the industry as women are often less confident in their clinical competence and academic levels compared to men (Nomura and Gohchi, 2012). Women also lamented on the difficulties of maintaining a work-life balance as doctors who leave work early to tend to family responsibilities are regarded as disrespectful and unprofessional in the Japanese society and this is connected to their strong seniority where junior doctors are unable to leave their workplace before their seniors. The following graph below plots the dwindling number of employed women after having children, as compared to Europe in 2015.

Problems of glass ceiling and discrimination still remains as an issue even in the modern-age Japan. Inequality in opportunities for promotion and disproportionate salaries may be seen as a problem of the past, but it still remains as a reality in Japan.

Ultimately, more has to be done or its society will continue to reflect the glass ceiling that female Japanese can barely scrape upon the surface in their careers.

Apart from Gender Diversity, what other inclusion efforts can Japan take to improve its talent pool?

You can read more about it in the full article from Angela Ward, our Regional Director for Asia by clicking here.

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