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So, should women avoid Japanese banks?

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.

Comments (12)

  1. the underlying truth is not as it appears. jp men are in fact seen as “cows” in jp families. cows go out to earn money, women provide food and xxx.
    also, jp women are not innocent as they look. among women from all races i encountered, jp women are not innocent..interestingly enough, jp women don’t seem to be aware of that…. i guess, that’s why they are so natural~~~~

    go and work at Nomura, the best place on earth now!!!!

  2. so it’s a nice environment to be a bloke. I’m off to Nomura.

  3. Does this mean Bridget Anderson and Saba Nazar wear short skirts with bright colours and don’t serve tea? Also why are the words Lehman and Nomura used interchangeably? Some training sessions only work with men and women together- that is true.

  4. leonida –

    in the minds of many City folk, Nomura = Lehman. Old prejudices die slowly and the City is still in shock that Lehman is gone.

  5. wow – no messing around – they let them know a lady’s place.

  6. Lehman = FAIL
    Nomura = FAIL IMMINENT

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

  7. You can quit if you do not like the culture.

  8. women should have their right to complain taken away – thats the first thing i would do as Nomura CEO

  9. apart from making the place look prettier, there isn’t much point to women in banking.

  10. “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. ”

    ;) well, of COURSE women need to be taught these things separately! men have already been TAUGHT all these things. (by women)

    granted, their versions of same are rather less impressive. nevertheless, most men in banking know how to make a cup of tea, dress according to the weather, do not dye their hair, avoid brightly coloured clothing, and have learned that supershortsleeves makes them look dickier than even their worst enemies could have imagined.

    kudos to munora for quietly recognising and seeking to remedy the sad deficiencies in the life-skills of a subset of their new employees.

    i make the best dam cup of tea in the world by the way.

    and, no, you’re not getting it. it’s mine. back off.

  11. I am amazed how macho and mâle chauvinistic some of thèse posts are! Shame on u.

  12. If this is true, then it does seem just a little behind with the times. But it can be all too easy to mock the norms of other societies without considering whether the people involved are actually bothered themselves.

    This does point to a deeper cultural issue than something that is unique to Nomura. If we were to go by the rules we regard as ‘normal’ in the UK across the rest of the world, then there would be less of a demand for companies such as Lingo24.

    Although translation is our main ‘r’aison d’etre’, localisation is every bit as important when we adapt material for any market, including Japan.

    Gender norms and acceptibilities play a big part in the localisation process and we are well aware that what we regard as acceptible in the UK or western Europe, might not be the case in many other parts of the world.


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