How to tackle gender inequality in the IT industry in Japan (and everywhere)?

The unsettling truth about numbers, women and IT; and how to fix it from within. In Japan and beyond!

Tom joined our team a few weeks ago and his first assignment was to fix the admin area of our startup recruitment solution for the Japanese market — Justa. After he fixed and upgraded what we used for months before he set a few cool demographics tools on the dashboard regarding our candidate base. Then a shock — 6.68% women. I will write this again so you can grasp the numbers. SIX. POINT. SIXTY-EIGHT. PERCENT.

It’s pretty simple math, but it shocked me that there are, let’s be generous, 7 women that want to work in a startup in Japan; and then they are surrounded by 93 men who want to do the same. The recent amazing speech by Emma Watson aside, equality was never a question for me — it always amazed me how inequality is an ongoing fact. How men don’t realize that equal right starts from the majority (one that isn’t in this case). Feminism is a cornerstone movement for humanity and men have to actively participate in it.

Within half an hour I started the following Facebook campaign targeting only women in Japan. Did it work? Meh… The conversion rate so far is less than half of the non-discriminatory ads. Yet we will keep doing it.

I have since had a strong urge to cancel all the social media ads targeted to both sexes and target women only, go to women-only events, a few existent like Women Who Code, and become a pure rugby-loving-male-feminist entrepreneur until we have 50% of women signed up as candidates on our platform.

Then I look at our amazing Justa team, and I see 3 guys and 1 girl. We used to be 3–2 but things change and sometimes you can’t control it (good luck to Maja in Berlin!). But on the other hand, shrugging your shoulders and saying this is just how things are is not the right attitude to change things.

We made a commitment to positively discriminate in favour of women in Japan in order to push this agenda a bit faster than expected. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing really revolutionary — the Prime Minister himself has made a commitment to (re)introduce more aggressively women into the working life and facilitate it with an appropriate legal framework. However, our small Justa team is convinced that change starts from us, that we ourselves have to make an extra mile beyond shrugging our shoulders and analyzing the paragraphs of proposed legislation.

Except targeting only women with ads we have a couple of pilot projects that would roll out in the next few months. Ideas are multiple and now we have to offer it initially to women, giving them a head start and give them all possible incentives. CV review services and professional orientation tests are just on top of my head (not to disclose too many big plans).

If we don’t do it we want to be held accountable and I want to urge our fellow startups in Japan and abroad that, besides making a world such a better place, improving process and addressing all the most varied needs, we all take a closer look at another embarrassing necessity — gender equality.

by Nik Pavesic, Project Manager @justajapan / living by a few ideas: crouch, bind, set: disrupt, change, improve, innovate.

cover photo by ttnk

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