Koji Ueno is Professor of Sociology at Florida State University. He holds a doctoral degree from Vanderbilt University. He conducts sexuality research using both quantitative and qualitative methods. His quantitative research has focused on sexual orientation disparities in mental health, friendships, and educational and occupational attainment outcomes in early life stages. He has received a grant from the National Science Foundation for this research. For qualitative research, he has been conducting a longitudinal, in-depth interview study to examine sexual minority young adults’ career planning process and workplace experiences in the US and Japan. He contributes to the scholarly community by publishing journal articles in these areas and serving on editorial boards.
By comparing sexual minorities' career plans in the US and Japan, the proposed project will examine how structural and cultural contexts impact sexual minorities' career planning process. The question is timely for three reasons: (1) the social climate for sexual minorities is changing rapidly in both countries; (2) the increasing job precariousness in both countries has made career planning a critical task for young people; and (3) scholars, policy makers, and the media have been paying increasing attention to sexual minorities' well-being although empirical research on career plans has been lacking. Scholars have argued that sexual minorities experience unique challenges in career planning, but only a few studies have been conducted to directly examine sexual minorities' career planning process. To extend the emerging literature, I started in 2011 an in-depth interview study with sexual minority young adults in the US. Using the interview data, I wrote a paper to report an optimistic view that many sexual minorities shared—their sexual minority status had not undermined their career plans and would not constrain their career prospects. Such a view may be due to the increasing level of acceptance of sexual minorities in the US, but it also reflected sexual minority respondents' efforts to downplay their disadvantages in the labor market. Recently, I have started to interview sexual minority young adults in Japan to compare them to the US participants. Two countries have important structural and cultural differences. For example, progress toward sexuality equality has been slower in Japan, and Japanese workplaces operate under an assumption that workers are heterosexual, and they are often managed by older men who tend to have more negative attitudes toward sexual minorities. Further, young Japanese people are more anxious than the US counterpart about their occupational attainment in general. For these reasons, sexual minorities in Japan may have more pessimistic views about career consequences of their sexual minority status. For my fellowship research, I propose to expand the existing Japanese sample and conduct comparative analysis between the US and Japan. As in my previous interviews in the US, the interviews in Japan will be semi-structured and collect detailed information about participants' career plans and their perceptions about opportunities and constraints as sexual minority workers. The analysis will be carried out through thematic coding of interview transcripts. I will pay special attention to interview segments that indicate structural and cultural factors, and the results will be compared between the US and Japanese samples to identify similarities and differences. The proposed study will contribute to the existing literature on career plans by identifying the role of structural and cultural contexts. Career planning is inherently a context-dependent process because people develop career plans by negotiating opportunities and constraints in the country's economy and by drawing on cultural values that guide their decisions as well as social discourses that help them tell coherent narratives. These structural and cultural factors vary across societies, and career plans are likely to vary accordingly. Unlike previous studies, the proposed project will directly demonstrate this point by making cross-cultural comparisons.