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Japanese Career Women’s Persistent Identity Conflict
© LMU Munich School of Management



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    Japanese Career Women’s Persistent Identity Conflict


    Helene Tenzer, LMU Munich School of Management

    This study explored how career-minded Japanese women experience and respond to identity conflict. The findings were based on 125 in-depth interviews with Japanese women who face incompatible expectations for their roles in their professional and private lives. The authors showed how this dilemma leads to an identity conflict to which women react with different identity work strategies: Individuals may either sacrifice their career ambitions or forego starting a family; alternatively, they might attempt to reconcile professional and personal role expectations by relinquishing perfectionism in both spheres, or seek partners whose personal expectations align more closely with their career objectives. While these strategies may resolve incompatible external role expectations, the study presented revealed that they do not effectively diminish internalized dilemmas. As a result of these persisting dilemma situations, many Japanese women experienced increasingly entrenched negative emotions such as regret, guilt, frustration and disempowerment.

    The Q&A session delved into the cultural and structural underpinnings of gender roles in Japan. It also addressed the need to include men’s views on working culture in Japan, cross-national comparisons, and potential pathways for societal change. It was an inspirational discussion that left the speaker and audience with much to ponder on the complexities of gender dynamics in the workplace, both in Japan and globally.

    Helene Tenzer is Associate Professor of International Management at LMU Munich School of Management in Germany. Her research interests include language diversity in multinational organizations, multinational and virtual teams, leadership in multinational organizations, international human resource management and Japanese human resource management. Helene is on the Editorial Review Boards of Academy of Management Review, Journal of World Business and Management International Review. Her work has been published in journals such as the Journal of International Business Studies, Leadership Quarterly, Journal of World Business and Academy of Management Learning and Education.