‘You Mean Women Deserve Careers?’ Patriarchal Japan Has Breakthrough Moment

Time’s second of two articles on gender inequality in Japan …


Correction appended: Oct. 1, 2013, 11:10 p.m. E.T.

On my last visit to Japan something happened that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before: a man served me tea. Granted, the situation was extenuating. I was on a remote military base on a teeny, tiny island in the middle of the East China Sea. The radar facility wasn’t exactly teeming with women.

The marginalization of women in Japan is so pervasive that after a while you don’t even notice it at all. You go to a meeting and the receptionist who greets you with a bright grin and deep bow is a woman. The important person you’re meeting is a man. The person who serves you tea and cookies is a woman. She may boast superior analytical skills and a degree from an elite university — nearly half of Japan’s college graduates are women. But her menial job is dictated…

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