The wife of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has spoken up against the prevalent “kawaii girl” culture in Japan, wherein women in the country are pressured to be stuck in the schoolgirl/cute persona, rather than be the mature, capable women that they are.
In a revealing interview, Akie Abe expressed her disappointment on how little society’s attitude toward women has changed in Japan in the last couple of decades.
“Men’s thinking has not changed,” the 54-year-old told Bloomberg. “Japanese men tend to prefer cute women over capable and hardworking women. So women try to appear to be the type that men like. Even very talented women put on cutesy ways.”
She stated that while more Japanese women now choose to work after marriage, the fact has remained that in the country, “big companies are a man’s world. Some things have changed and others haven’t.”
Abe also expressed her support for her husband’s “womenomics“ initiative to have females get involved more in key roles within Japanese society, which aims to have at least 30% of management roles across all fields in the country to be held by women.
Aside from empowering women, the plan is also geared to fill in the labor shortage caused by the aging and shrinking population in the country.
However, it was found last year that only 3.5% key positions were held by women. The government has since slashed the 2020 goal to 7%, and set a private industry goal to 15%, CNN reported.
“My feeling is that women don’t necessarily want to work in the same way as men, such as thinking it’s good to be promoted,” she said.
Abe also pointed out how the female presence can offer a broader perspective in the business sector.
“Having women’s views reflected brings benefits in all sorts of fields and helps the economy,” she added.
But aside from business, she explained that opinion of Japanese women is also needed in politics.
“If it’s all men, everything is done from the point of view of men,” she said. “It is difficult for women to express their opinions if they are completely outnumbered. So I think the numbers are quite important.”