Women in Japanese business

Dress code and etiquette

While the Japanese constitution contains an equal-opportunity clause, the Japanese business world is still male-dominated, and therefore, sometimes sexist. Many Japanese businessmen are uncomfortable doing business with women (especially foreign women in senior positions), and may seem nervous or rude.

While this is gradually changing, women should not expect to be treated exactly the same as their male co-workers. For instance, they are usually not welcome in the “hostess bars” that are popular destinations for after-hours business gatherings.

To prevent negative experiences, women should wear long skirts in the workplace. Hair should be worn up in a neat ponytail or bun. Flats are preferable to heels in most situations. Short skirts (which are considered inappropriate) and high heels invite disrespect and condescension from male co-workers. Most Japanese companies also prefer that women not wear jewellery to work. As with men, however, women should have properly-formatted business cards within reach at all times.

The Japanese have a saying: “The nail that sticks up gets hit with a hammer.” Keep it in mind when considering business dress for both men and women, in addition to Japanese business culture in general.

Further reading

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