The Necessity of Drinking and the Risks for Women Managers in Post-Bubble Japan CANCELLED

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: Booth 52
Swee Lin HO , National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
This paper examines the varying risks faced by Japanese women who utilize after-work drinking as a strategic and necessary tool to manage their ambiguous identity as corporate managers. The increasingly flexible work environment in post-bubble Japan has generated opportunities for many women to gain white-collar employment and develop professional careers, but it has also generated high staff turnover and presented corporate managers with the challenge of having to handle competitive, unstable and disharmonious employee relations. After-work drinking may continue to be regarded as an important extension of work, but it has shifted radically in significance from being a means of forging collective bonding among workers and enhancing the corporate identity of employers, to becoming an individual-focused activity for social networking and a strategic tool for corporate managers to deal with employee relations to protect, if not also advance, their careers. Yet, despite having gained the ability to legitimize drinking as work-related, and despite also an improvement to the image of drinking for women over the past decades, women managers still face considerable risks in incurring social criticisms and in terms of their health. This is because drinking remains a predominantly masculine activity in Japan even today, while the improvement to the image of women drinking in the past decades was largely commercially driven – by producers of alcoholic beverages targeting the enhanced economic resources of Japan’s expanded white-collar female workforce – and does not reflect a greater acceptance of drinking for women by the broader Japanese society.