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November 2011

The Reality and Challenges of Women’s Participation in the Broadcasting Industry

A Quarter Century Since the Enforcement of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act for Men and Women

Yoshitane Okuda

“The broadcasting industry is a male-dominated workplace. When I entered the industry a quarter century ago, only a small handful of women were hired. But most of us, and I was also guilty of this, hardly questioned the recruiting practice.”

It’s been a quarter century since the enforcement of “the Equal Employment Opportunity Act for Men and Women.” Although broadcasting is still a male-dominated industry, there’ve been some changes as women hired around the year of the promulgation of “the Equal Employment Opportunity Act” have forged their way against prevailing tendencies of gender biases or male-centric values. In 2010 the percentages of women entering the broadcasting industry are 21.2% for commercial broadcasters and 13.6% for NHK. The numbers testify to a gradual, albeit slow, progress, compared to the recruiting situation of 15 years ago. In recent years, generations of women hired around the year of “the Equal Employment Opportunity Act” have advanced into managerial and executive positions and gained a greater voice. There are also many women on the production sites as program directors, drama producers and script writers.

However, not a small number of women employees still have no choice but to leave their positions due to childbirth, childcare and nursing care. Since very few women meet the required years of experience making them eligible for managerial positions, the percentages of women in those positions are still 11.6% for commercial broadcasters and 3.8% for NHK. These numbers suggest that the industry is far from achieving the goal set by the cabinet decision that by the year 2020 female participation in policy and business decisions should be boosted to 30%.

According to the recent survey on language used in the radio and TV listings in the papers, a gender bias is still entrenched and one still sees an inordinate level of emphasis on the female gender specification for professions, such as “woman doctor,” “woman announcer” and “woman reporter.” This implies that there is still the age-old preconception that the viewers and listeners decide what to watch or listen on the basis of “feminine appeal” they anticipate. Unless this type of social mindset is changed, it will be hard to promote the participation of women in our society to the level of other advanced countries.

The broadcasting industry has to reconsider the meaning of work-life balance and make further efforts to shorten overly long hours and thereby alleviate the burdens primarily born by female employees, whether it be childbirth, childcare and nursing care. Parallel to that, the industry should also be responsible for fostering media literacy in order to whittle away the gender bias still prevalent in society.

The NHK Monthly Report on Broadcast Research


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