The gender gap yawns wide, despite Japan’s female astronaut and new anti-discrimination laws. The World Economic Forum recently downgraded Japan three spots to 101st place on its latest gender discrimination report. Japanese companies have long had a reputation of being unfriendly to women, especially mothers. That image was reinforced recently by the World Economic Forum, which downgraded Japan in its Gender Gap Report from 98th of 130 countries in 2008 to 101st out of 134 countries in 2009. But on April 19, government and industry representatives set a target of getting 55 percent of women to return to work after having children. Also in April, Japan celebrated Exhibit A for that goal: “mama astronaut” Naoko Yamazaki, who was part of a recent space shuttle crew. And Japan’s low birthrate, and the falling ratio of workers to the aging, are prompting more companies to try to appeal to women.
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