Promoting gender equality in a challenging environment: The case of Scandinavian subsidiaries in Japan

Lena Elisabeth Kemper, Anna Katharina Bader, Fabian Jintae Froese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
35 Downloads (Pure)


Gender diversity and equality vary tremendously among countries. This is a particular challenge for foreign subsidiaries, when the level of gender diversity and equality differs between the home and host country. Various indicators such as a low-gender pay gap or a high ratio of females in managerial positions suggest that Scandinavia is ahead in terms of gender diversity and equality, whereas those indicators suggest that the level in Japan is currently lower. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how executives leading Scandinavian subsidiaries operating in Japan perceive this situation, and whether and what kind of actions they take to initiate change.

This study is based on a qualitative analysis of 20 in-depth interviews with executives of Scandinavian subsidiaries in Japan.

Findings reveal that executives of Scandinavian subsidiaries respond to the major differences in gender equality between Scandinavia and Japan with three strategies of change: resistance and rigid change, compromise and moderate change, and adaptation and maintaining status quo. Moreover, the findings indicate that the strategy of change varies depending on individual differences of the executives, e.g., nationality, and organizational differences, e.g., subsidiary size.

Research limitations/implications
Due to the small sample size, the generalizability of the findings is limited. Given the paucity of research on this topic, this approach provides first insights for building a basis for future studies.

This study contributes to the scarce literature on gender diversity and equality in multinational enterprises by identifying strategies of how gender equality can be fostered in a non-Western context from a top executive perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-75
JournalPersonnel Review
Issue number1
Early online date8 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2019


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