Abstract

It is a common observation that normative gender roles in contemporary Japan are a hurdle to female participation in the male-dominated business world. Japan’s modern gender norm, constructed and institutionalized by the state in the late 19th century, can best be described as a system of complimentary but binary sexes in which normatively male roles are performed in the public sphere (soto) and normatively female roles are performed in the private sphere (uchi). Women’s normative role as “good wife and wise mother” (ryosai kenbo) was deeply internalized by middle class women in the post-war period. As such it represents a powerful institutional barrier to their entrepreneurial energies.

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