Kumiko Nemoto is a professor of management in School of Business Administration at Senshu University in Tokyo, Japan. Her research focuses on gender, race, work, organizations, and institutional conditions. She completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Nemoto is the author of Too Few Women at the Top: The Persistence of Inequality in Japan (Cornell University Press, 2016) and Racing Romance: Love, Power, and Desire among Asian American/White Couples (Rutgers University Press, 2009). Too Few Women at the Top: The Persistence of Inequality in Japan questions why the number of women in upper management in Japanese companies in Japan remains so low, and examines organizational customs at five Japanese companies, in addition to state policies and court interventions. The book illustrates how gender inequality in Japan is closely connected to the country’s unique system of capitalism: the slow changes in Japanese business practices relate to the reluctance of business communities and political elites to destabilize the traditional stakeholder-driven business system and the close ties of business with governments, courts, and bureaucrats. Nemoto is currently working on comparative research regarding gender differences in corporate career mobility and pathways in different institutional contexts in Japan, Norway, and the United States. In this comparative project, she examines the unique roles of labor markets, employment customs, corporate management, and policy and legal interventions in contributing to the distinct career pathways of women and men in each country. Nemoto resides in Tokyo, Japan.
Developing and strengthening egalitarian initiatives and policies has become an increasingly important imperative for corporations. In this project, I ask how a multinational firm, maneuvering legal, economic, and labor conditions in multiple countries, can manage and utilize the local workforce and, at the same time, effectively respond to the civil imperative of workplace equality. I explore a Japanese multinational firm’s management and organizational practices in Japan, the United States, and China, asking how one firm manages workers in the three different countries; what types of workplace inequality, especially in terms of gender and race, emerge in each place; and how the firm responds to them. I employ participant observations in the workplace, as well as in-depth interviews with workers and managers in the three different countries. Looking comparatively at employment, promotion, training, work hours, and workers’ aspirations, I will also compare each firm’s strategies and initiatives for effective management. I have chosen the United States and China, in addition to Japan, as the research sites because they are the two largest countries to which Japan’s foreign direct investment has been directed. The multinational firms in these countries have played critical roles in Japan’s past economic and political partnerships with the United States and China, and will continue to do so in the future. The United States, Japan, and China have different levels of governmental and corporate commitment to workplace equality. The United States has long been committed to the implementation of equal opportunity laws and initiatives, as well as to the monitoring of firms. Japan and China lag far behind the U.S. in their implementation of equal opportunity initiatives and effective employment laws. In fact, Japan is one of the least gender-equal countries in the world (United Nation Human Development Report 2007). And workplace discrimination in China has sometimes crossed the line to become an explicit violation of human rights (Bulger 2000). The project is not limited to investigating inequality with regard to gender, but also inquires about other factors, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, and age, as they are also components of unequal treatment in the workplace. In the field of sociology, multinational corporations have traditionally been discussed mostly in terms of the exploitation of economic resources and human laborers in developing countries; a comparative examination of how one firm operates in different countries has been rare. In the field of business management, scholars have examined the transnational operation of one firm in different locations, but their focus has been mostly on the deployment of diversity initiatives or the internationalization of management. This project takes an innovative interdisciplinary approach to look at both management initiatives aimed at enhancing workplace equality and employee experiences of these initiatives. Overall, with this project, I aim to enhance Japanese government and corporate awareness of workplace equality, aid them in more effectively using a diverse workforce locally and globally, and encourage them in effectively implementing such policies both within and outside of Japan.