Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Career Women in Contemporary Japan: Pursuing Identities, Fashioning Lives
by Aronsson, Anne Stefanie, Ph.D., Yale University, 2012, 383; 3525198
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation I explore what motivates Japanese women to pursue professional careers in today's neoliberal economy and how they reconfigure notions of selfhood while doing so. I ask why and how it is that one-fourth of women stay on a career track, often against considerable odds, while the other three-fourths drop out of the workforce.

Since Japan's economic recession began in the 1990s, the female workforce has experienced revolutionary changes as greater numbers of women have sought to establish careers. Employment trends indicate that more white-collar professional women are increasingly breaking through the "glass ceiling" as digital technologies blur and redefine work in spatial, gendered, and ideological terms. In addition, more women began filling managerial posts as the recession led to the liberalization of career paths that fit with women's tendencies to engage in short-term and part-time work. In their careers, these professional women create new social identities through the mutual conditioning of structure and self. How do their actions change the gendering of the workforce, and how do they come to understand their experiences? I draw on literature from gender and family studies, women's studies, the anthropology of globalization, and the anthropology of Japan to analyze how professional women contest conventional notions of femininity and negotiate new gender roles and cultural meanings.

In exploring both the past and present conditions of women's careers and lives, I draw from interviews that I gathered during my eighteen-months fieldwork in Tokyo between 2007 and 2010 with 120 professional women ranging in age from early twenties to mid-nineties. I organize these interviews along two main axes: the generation when each woman entered the workforce, and the work sector she entered. I look at five work sectors – finance, industry, entrepreneurship, government, and academia – that attract women because of the new career prospects that emerge as the sectors' institutional policies change so that they can compete in a neoliberal global economy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kelly, William Wright
Commitee:
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Asian Studies, Womens studies, Individual & family studies, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Anthropology, Career women, Family and gender studies, Japan, Work-life balance
Publication Number: 3525198
ISBN: 9781267574824
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