Treating men and women differently on the basis of their current typical gender roles in society is not only mistaken but is also counter to efforts since 1997 by the United Nations to foster gender equality. Since that year the United Nations has fostered Gender Mainstreaming; the idea that “women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Accordingly, each person should be treated as an individual, not a gender. Gender Mainstreaming, and with it, gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of both women and men are taken into consideration recognizing the diversity of different groups of women and men [and individuals in particular] (OSAGI 2001).” Gender equality is not a women’s issue only but equally concerns and fully engages men as well.

In recognition of the human rights implications and justice in treating the sexes as equals, and to foster individual rights, Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin (Diet 1946).” Nevertheless, distinguishing men from women is often thought useful when attempting to gain socially, politically, economically or when a person or faction attempts to convince others of a matter of interest. Unfortunately, as in the majority of countries around the world, in Japan, such discrimination continues in different realms and seems a lingering holdover from years of cultural separation of the sexes in employment and opportunity.

Indeed, during the last decade efforts to reduce discrimination have come under fire. A “backlash” group of conservatives have, according to the New Japan Women’s Association (NJWA), “manipulated the national and local parliaments and the mass media to mislead the public into believing that ‘gender-free’ is an extreme idea aiming to break up the family, encourage promiscuity, and deny the differences between men and women. Their all-out attack on the term ‘gender’ and on sex education based on such incorrect and biased assertion have been ‘successful’ in making it taboo to use the term ‘gender’ in public and to promote sex education particularly at school (NJWA 2009).” Their influence has been considerable. Consider that the Matsuyama City Council of Ehime Prefecture adopted a petition suggesting the city in its enforcement of regulations on gender equality “should not encourage gender and women’s studies or research” and the government of Kumamoto deleted city ordinance references regarding the promotion of gender equality inserting instead language to “respect Japan’s own tradition and culture. (NJWA 2009)”

Early in Japanese history, particularly during the Heien period (12th century) women could hold positions of power and respect. By the time of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), however, things had significantly changed so that even with industrialization and urbanization lessening the authority of fathers and husbands, the Meiji Civil Code denied women legal rights and subjugated them to the will of household heads (Faiola 2007). This cultural situation was supposedly rectified following World War II with the establishment of the new constitution but this has not happened. Indeed a United Nations study of 2006 reported that Japan ranked behind all other industrialized nations in terms of the empowerment of women (Faiola 2007). This present paper will deal primarily with discrimination against women in academia and the so-called glass or bamboo ceiling.

Much of the overall discrimination in Japan seems dependent upon the conservative idea that there are natural differences between men and women that justify treating them differently and that such management is correct. Often presented to bolster this argument is their interpretation of my so-called John/Joan case about David Reimer (Yamamoto 2006).

David was a male infant that lost his penis due to a circumcision blunder. Due to misguided advice he was subsequently raised as a girl and not told anything of this history or the gender switch. Then, without knowing of his past, David on his own determined that he could and should indeed live as a male and rejected his female upbringing (Diamond and Sigmundson 1997; Colapinto 2000). What many conservatives extract from the case, as I interpret their thinking (Yamamoto 2005), is that due to inherent inborn sex differences David, knew he should be a male and not a female. Further, since David was so devastated by the experience that he eventually suicided the traditionalists extrapolated that it would be harmful to foster changes in traditional sex/gender practices. As David was traumatized by being raised as a girl and forced to live as a female, others too – women as well as men – would suffer if their sex and gender roles were switched. This example from David’s experience was then taken to represent the possible potential negative plight of men and women in everyday life should the conservative traditions of gender stereotypes and emphasis on sex differences be significantly modified. As other well-meaning intentions with negative consequences, their thinking was based on a misunderstanding of the full ramifications of sex development and then mistakenly extracted to development in general. I have expanded my thinking on this matter before (Diamond 2006).

Below I will reiterate the main points of how I think individuals develop as male or female and come to identify as boy or girl and then man or woman. In doing so I essentially present my my biased-interaction theory of psychosexual development (Diamond 2006) 1. This theory posits that people are born with certain inherent biases. Then these biases interact with the realities of their experiences. Their final behavior patterns are formed from this interaction of their inborn biases and environmentally derived experiences. What I wish to emphasize now, however, is what David experienced that makes the story of personal development both common and unique for everyone. Understanding this aspect of ontogeny is what the traditionalists leave out. This omission has perilous ramifications that extend to many issues for persons of either sex.

Starting very early in life the developing child, consciously or not, begins to compare himself or herself with others; peers and adults seen, met, or heard of. All children have this in common (Goldman and Goldman 1982). In so doing they analyze inner feelings and behavior preferences in comparison with those of their peers and adults. In this analysis they crucially consider “Who am I like (same) and who am I unlike (different)?” When David made such comparisons he saw his interests and his biases were more like those he knew of as typical of boys rather than those he knew of as usual for girls.

Role models in development are of particularly strong influence but there is no way to predict if a model will be chosen, who will be chosen, nor on what basis chosen. In such comparisons there is no internal template of male or female into which the child attempts to fit. David preferred to model after his father rather than his mother. Individuals see if they are same or different in comparisons with peers, important persons, groups or categories of others (Diamond 2002). It is the “goodness of fit” that is crucial. The typical boy, even if he is effeminate, sees himself as fitting the category “boy” and “male” and eventually growing to be a man with all the accoutrements of masculinity that go with it. Similarly the typical girl, even if quite masculine, grows to aspire to being a woman and probably being a mother. The comparisons allow for great flexibility in cultural variation in regard to gendered behaviors. David came to clearly see how differently he was being brought up from how he thought should be appropriate. It is the adaptive value of this inherent comparing-nature of brain development that trumps a concept of a male or female brain template to organize gender development. David saw himself as different in likes and dislikes, preferences, and attitudes from the average girls he knew and more like (same) the boys. He experienced confusion when his mother and father would call him a girl while he did not feel as one. David didn’t see himself a girl and actually imagined if he was not really a girl or a boy then possibly he was an it, an alien or some sort or a freak of nature.

Early on David realized he preferred the boy’s toys given to his twin brother than the girl’s toys he was given. His inherent biases toward things he liked and disliked were increasingly obvious to him as he matured and came to a peak as he became pubertal. Indeed puberty is a time noted for emphasizing in oneself – and often to others as well – comparisons between those considered of the same or opposite gender. At the age of 14 David told his psychiatrist that if he could not live as the boy he believed himself to be he would commit suicide (Diamond and Sigmundson 1997).2 These were the factors crucial in David’s psychosexual development. They say nothing of his physical, intellectual or moral development or his ability to adapt. Fuller discussion of how David, or anyone else, comes to understand his or her own gender is incorporated into and discussed under the biased-interaction theory of psychosexual development (Diamond 2006; Diamond 2009).

In summary, David’s developmental struggles do not reflect the course of events in the lives of everyday boys and girls as they develop to adulthood. While this psychosexual development of David exemplifies how gender identity is developed, it says nothing of his or anyone’s development of intellectual, moral and adaptive abilities. To confuse the psychosexual development of David Reimer and directly relate it to the overall development of typical men and women would be a distortion of reality. As far as is known the latter traits mentioned above arise similarly in men and women and where differences are found they are usually relatively small. “Such evidence has led many to conclude that recognition of similarities should outweigh an emphasis on sex differences (Deaux 1985).”

I will now turn my attention to the particular discrimination of women in the Japanese academy. It must be obvious from the start that academics, aside from those in athletic or physical endeavors, should be judged on their intellectual, critical and rational abilities and not on muscular, athletic, gymnastic or physical attributes. Their ability to teach and conduct research and knowledge of their field is crucial and in an environment where intellectual and rational abilities should be foremost these are the factors that ideally decide professional recognition and reward.

To specifically discuss women in academia consider the 2008 election in the United States. Offered as one of the candidates was Hillary Rodman Clinton, the wife of a former president. Ms. Clinton was not on the ballot because of her having been the president’s spouse. She was there for the Democratic Party’s recognition that she was one of the best candidates her party could nominate. The other candidate was Barack Obama. In the world of politics she is not alone. India, Israel and the United Kingdom as well have each selected women as their leaders and a woman has led Germany as Chancellor since 2000. In a world where a country’s decisions and guidance can be life threatening to its total population this is a major recognition that, regardless of gender, the best person available is often selected to have the top position.

This does not similarly hold true in other aspects of life. Political success doesn’t necessarily bring along economic success or gender acceptance. According to a United Nations study women often experience a "glass ceiling" and there are no societies in which women enjoy the same opportunities as men (Deen 1995).

The term "glass ceiling” was first used by A. M. Morrison in an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in 1987. He used it to describe a perceived barrier to advancement in employment based on discrimination, especially sex discrimination (Economist 2009). While women have embraced academic opportunity, and the numbers of women obtaining Ph.D.s in all fields has increased dramatically, their distribution within the managerial, economic or professional levels has not been commensurate with these women’s aspirations or accomplishments.

This situation exists world wide in every aspect of employment. In the United States, the Glass Ceiling Commission, a government appointed group to investigate discrimination against women in the labor pool stated: "Over half of all Master’s degrees are now awarded to women, yet 95% of senior-level managers, of the top Fortune 1000 industrial and 500 service companies are men (Commission 1995).

Much of this discrepancy is attributed to physiological/biological differences between men and women as if women are not as capable as men in the tasks for which they are hired. While this might be true for certain and few occupations that require muscular strength it is more often a prejudicial bias against women. It is often a reflection of the belief that the only proper role for women is to care for children and manage the “hearth and home” while men bring home the “bread and bacon.” The Greek satirist Aristophanes and English legal philosopher John Stuart Mill, both of whom thought women much the equal of men in thought and ability notwithstanding, most men believed women incapable of creative productivity and originality.

As with the business or general economic world this has been equally seen in academia. The faculty and administrative ranks of colleges and universities have also demonstrated that women are not proportional to their availability in the labor pool nor are they recognized academically for their competence. This is seen at universities everywhere it has been investigated.3

Matthew Clifford-Rashotte, in discussing the glass ceiling in Canadian universities wrote, “Today, more undergraduates, more graduate students, and more medical school graduates in Canada are female, but in the upper echelons of university representation, a major gender imbalance persists ( Clifford-Rashotte 2009).” This is a truism seemingly around the world (Husu 2001; Majcher 2002; Smithers 2004). One study reported "Forty percent of female respondents ranked gender discrimination first out of 11 possible choices for hindering their career in academic medicine. Thirty-five percent ranked gender discrimination second to either ‘limited time for professional work’ or ‘lack of mentoring’ (Carr, Szalacha et al. 2003).” And gender discrimination seems to be especially so in Japan (French 2001). Despite many changes over the last decade when things started to improve in Japan, perhaps as a response to a lowered birth rate and large labor shortage, Japan remains a predominantly patriarchal society where men see women as primarily to be in an assisting capacity rather than in one of authority, responsibility and command.

Certain exceptions to the rule have surfaced. In the business world Sanyo Electric Co. hired a woman, Tomoyo Nonaka, as its CEO and chairwoman, making her the highest-profile female executive in Japan Inc. and former BMW Tokyo chief Fumiko Hayashi was appointed CEO and chairwoman at Daiei Inc. (Anonymous 2005). But such positions are rare and will surely test the waters for other women chief executives in Japan (French 2001).

According to Natsuko Fukue, a reporter for the Japan Times writing in November of 2009, Japan ranks 31st out of 35 countries in terms of the percentage of female board of directors, falling below the conservative countries of Jordan, Oman and Kuwait, and she reports there are only 17 women among 1,198 directors in large Japanese companies (Fukue 2009. She calls this discrimination against women a “bamboo ceiling.” This is especially discouraging since it had been found by Kathryn Bartol in a study conducted in 2003 that among men as well as women, both female middle managers and female executives were rated higher than male counterparts not only regarding interpersonal management, but also in goals and task leader behaviors (Bartol 2003).

It had been hoped or expected that the glass ceiling would have especially been removed in academia. The university is where the leaders and change agents of society and the world are educated and professionally molded. Selecting and preparing these future citizens and leaders has historically relied on various methods. Foremost is that done on the basis of excellence as proven by testing along different endeavors, publication in one’s field, and the examination of one’s ability to find new solutions to classical and standard problems. This is the universities’ discrimination of excellence and is widely held to be good and positive. Unfortunately, this has not happened. It seems that even in the university the old stereotypes of women as less competent and “not the equal of men” has held. This is bad and negative discrimination. While it might be tolerated and understood among laypersons, it is inappropriate for academia where higher expectations exist and higher standards are demanded.

Things for women were supposed to have changed as a result of a new government sponsored equal opportunity employment law in 1986. The law, it was hoped, would offer women the chance to pursue professional careers as well as men. The law was controversial from the beginning since it divided females employees into ippanshoku, or general workers, who would accept the traditional role of non-professional Japanese working-women, and sogoshoku, or career-track-workers, who could aspire to promotion. There was never any question that men would be regarded as ippanshoku, so the feminists criticized the law from the start as condescending and discriminatory (McCarthy 1993).

But for many women throughout the country it was a welcome start and tens of thousands applied for the fast-track sogoshoku status. Now, more than two decades later, many of these women feel cruelly deceived, their careers blocked by invisible barriers of male prejudice and Japanese corporate and academic traditions.

Some of these traditions are associated with the fact that Japanese society, while basically heterosexual is strongly homosocial, which means that men, especially those in positions of power or control, generally interact only with other men not only in regard to their professional activities but also after standard working hours. In considerations of hiring or job assignments they think of other men they interacted with, or know or heard of rather than of women. As co-equals they are more likely to think of another man rather than a woman. In many of their general every-day activities men of status interact considerably more with women that fall within the ippanshoku category than the sogoshoku group.

In regard to the hiring of women for jobs of responsibility and for promotion women are often passed over due to the belief that they would only be temporary or short time workers; staying on only until they get married or pregnant. But this is erroneous thinking according to Hiromi Harada, a leader of the Association of Female Students against Job Discrimination. Ms. Harada has said, “Our poll shows that between 70 and 80 percent of women want to continue to work until retirement age … Moreover, very few women say they want to quit when they have a child (French 2001).” That many women do quit when they have children is because of the high cost of day care. To level the field and allow more women to stay on, measures should be enacted to make day care more common and more affordable (French 2001).

There is no justification for this type of gender discrimination and glass ceiling. My reasoning for thinking so is the same today for this issue as it was several years ago when I was contacted about my beliefs about gender differences (Diamond 2006). In 2005 and 2006 I had been contacted by reporters from The Asahi Shinbun and Tokyo Shinbun and by various educators from Tokyo and Kobe. They questioned me about some of my research on gender. At that time there was specific focus on what I thought were the implications of the John/Joan case for the status of women compared with that of men. A specific concern was how I saw normal sexual development occur and how government and cultural institutions from businesses to social organizations should adapt to these realities.

In the academy, in business, in politics and even in the family, I believe that regardless of gender every individual should be evaluated and positioned on his or her merits regarding the task under consideration. And each person should be allowed to demonstrate that ability to the full extent possible. In some cases it will be a man who is best for the task or position and some times it will be a women. Some men would undoubtedly be better than women in many tasks traditionally seen as female and some women would, without doubt, be better than men in occupations usually viewed as male. These evaluations should not be made in the form of competition but as recognition for adjusting the best persons for their best utilization leading to maximizing opportunity and success. For the university I have already made specific recommendations and trust they will prove useful (Diamond 2010).

Having the best person in each position would not only maximize the human potential and increase the university as a national and world wide resource but would show the academy as exemplifying the high ideals of human rights and social equality. This could only better the nation and increase Japan’s standing in international comparisons. Indeed hope is on the horizon. Yukio Hatoyama the Prime Minister of Japan since 2009 has made known his desire to raise the status of women and legally increase their rights (Murakami 2010). Chieko Nohno, member of the Japanese House of Councilors, told the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that the country is increasing efforts to fulfill its obligations under the U.N. Convention (U.N. 2009) and the New Japan Women’s Association is becoming increasingly active in eradicating stereotyped perceptions of gender roles and improving honest and gender correct educational practices. They specifically want to remove gender discriminatory practices among teachers and in the classroom in general (NJWA 2009). Let us hope that all comes to pass. Not only will this benefit woman within Japanese education but all Japanese women and Japanese men as well.



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Carr, P. Szalacha, L, Barneti, R. Caswell, C. & Inui, T. (2003). "A 'Ton of Feathers': Gender Discrimination in Academic Medical Careers and How to Manage It " Journal Of Women's Health  12(10): 1009-1018.

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Goldman, R. and J. Goldman (1982). Children's sexual thinking: A comparative study of children aged 5 to 15 years in Australia, North America, Britain, and Sweden. London, England, Routledge & Kegan Paul.

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1 The biased-interaction theory is also called the same-different theory of psychosexual development (Diamond, M. (2006) "Biased-interaction theory of psychosexual Development: 'How Does One Know if One is Male or Female?' " Sex Roles 55(9-10): 589-600.).

2 I had predicted as much in 1965 (Diamond, M. (1965). "A Critical Evaluation Of The Ontogeny Of Human Sexual Behavior." Quarterly Review of Biology 40: 147 - 175). I essentially wrote at that time (page 154) that children misassigned as to gender would, mostly reassign themselves or attempt to reassign themselves at puberty Puberty is the time when individuals most strongly come to express gender-distinguishing characteristics for the first time.

3 I can proudly say that currently at the University of Hawaii things are different. We presently have a President who is women and four of the ten Chancellors in our university system are women.

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