The easiest way to affect social change is to affect the flow of money. Talking about women’s rights and equal pay may get lip service from politicians and civic rights groups but it won’t move the pay needle a jot until Wall Street sees a reason to respond. Universal health care became palatable as an idea once people understood it made economic sense to cover everyone rather than a few in the emergency room. (Click) Equal pay will arrive when a booming economy and a scarcity of workers demands it.
In Japan, where an aging population has impacted the labor force, women have benefited. They are entering fields where, in the past, their gender would have been an impediment. The automotive industry is a prime example (“Why Japan’s Automakers Are Finally Recruiting Women,” by Nao Sano et al, Bloomberg Businessweek, May 21, 2018, pg. 16) Tech and the banking industry are bending to the need to welcome women, as well. (Ibid pg. 17.)
When the owner of a potato chip factory grew tired of hearing complaints from male employees about women on the site, his reply was succinct. “If you don’t like diversity, you can quit.” (Ibid pg. 18.)
The need to recruit women has also altered working conditions. Toyota and Honda have opened day care centers near their factories. Children can stay overnight if their parents work the late shift. (Ibid. pg. 18) Like the owner of the potato chip factory, it’s amazing how accommodating the automobile industry has become once its profits were at stake.
Arguments about social equality do little to change hearts and minds, I fear. But, add money to the equation and doors fly open. In this case, economic necessity has given Japanese women a chance to prove themselves.