So, should women avoid Japanese banks?

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As we mentioned earlier, the Wall Street Journal has an article today suggesting Nomura is failing when it comes to females.

Specifically, the Journal says Nomura is guilty of the following faux pas:

1) Separating men and women during a training session for new hires.

2) Instructing the separated off women how to wear their hair, serve tea and choose wardrobes 'according to the season.'

3) Telling some women to remove highlights from their hair, wear sleeves no shorter than mid-bicep and avoid brightly coloured clothing.

4) Changing some women's email addresses to their married names from their maiden names.

A Lehman spokesperson in London informs us the information is 'inaccurate' and points to the presence of various senior women, including Bridget Anderson, COO of investment banking, and Saba Nazar, co-head of financial sponsors in Europe, as proof that it's not as backward as all that.

However, senior headhunters and female bankers say the claims aren't entirely unfeasible.

"In Lehman the individual is an individual. In Nomura it's all about the firm and respect for elders. Nomura has been moving more and more towards the Western way of doing things but this highlights the extremes that might be left behind," says the head of one Asian headhunting firm.

"The Japanese culture for women is very, very difficult," confirms a senior Western banker who's worked with Japanese clients. "It's very archaic and women are expected to conform."

There is no need to fear the tea ceremony

One Japanese cultural guru also suggests an innocent explanation for Nomura's allegedly bizarre behaviour: an introduction to the intricacies of Japanese culture.

"The tea ceremony is a beautiful thing," says Rob Johnson, a Japanese cultural expert at Kwintessential, an intercultural communications company. "It's very ritualistic and stylized and is about preparing the tea in a certain way. Women can become tea masters."

The need for wardrobe instruction may also emanate from Japan, where employees are apparently unable to distinguish between smart casual and casually suggestive. "When they first brought dress down Friday to Tokyo all the women turned up dressed for a nightclub," says one Japanese headhunter.

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