`We Need More Trailblazers`: Paternity Leave in Japan

  • November 15th, 2018
  • Blog

This piece is  part of a series connected to GenPol’s work on parental leave in the UK and beyond. It is based on an interview between GenPol directors (Ellen Davis-Walker and Chiara De Santis) and Seira Yun of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who is currently researching Paternity Leave in Japan at the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation. We really enjoyed his personal take on the unique dynamics that underpin these parental leave provisions. We hope you will too!


What is the current situation facing new (or prospective) parents in Japan?

New (or prospective) parents in Japan can benefit from a very generous parental leave regime if they want to, but only few fathers take up these benefits.

Japan has one of the best statutory paternity leave regimes with regards to its length and leave payment. Concerning the length of the leave, each parent can take parental leave, as an individual entitlement, until the child is 12 months old. A parent on leave receives sixty-seven per cent of their salary for the first six months, then fifty per cent of the salary for the remainder. In addition, the leave payment is not taxable and the recipients are not subject to social security contributions. These leave benefits are funded by the Employment Insurance system, which is financed by contributions from employees, employers and the state.

This generous parental leave policy is related to the concerns in shrinking population. Given Japan’s low birth rate the Japanese government has been implementing policies to encourage more women to work and reproduce in order to maintain the labour force needed to sustain the social security system of an aging society. One of these policies is a generous paternal leave policy so that women can have children without sacrificing too much of their career.

However, very few working fathers actually take up the paternity leave benefits they are legally entitled to. According to a survey conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, the uptake rate of parental leave taken by fathers increased from 3.16 per cent in 2016 to 5.14 per cent in 2017 (compared with 83.2 per cent for working mother), which marked the highest percentage since the survey began in 1996 . In 2016, out of 3.16 per cent of the fathers who took paternity leave, more than 80% took less than one month of leave, and 56.9% took less than five days. The paternity leave uptake rate in Japan is significantly lower than in counties such as Sweden (88.3 per cent), Norway (90 per cent), Iceland (81 per cent), and France (62 per cent).

Why did you want to research the topic?  What exactly drew you to it?   

The idea for this research was born during a conversation with my wife. My wife and I discussed having a child, as well as practical arrangements for childcare because we both had full-time jobs. Given that we are both feminists, we’ve decided that I, as the father of any potential children, should take an equal, if not greater, share of childcare responsibility than my wife. As such, I started to study the paternity leave  policy in Japan. I was happy to find out that Japan has a generous statutory paternity leave regime compared to other countries. However, I was shocked by the huge gap between a generous statutory paternity leave policy and an extremely low uptake rate. I then started to search for information explaining the reasons for this discrepancy. While I found numerous studies on the same topic but conducted in different countries, I was not able to find academic articles examining the Japanese situation, except for a few.

Then I came across the case of Sony: an interesting case in regards to paterity leave; Sony has an extremely high rate of paternity leave uptake at approximately fifty per cent. However, there has been no academic research examining how Sony was able to change its organizational culture to encourage its male employees to take paternity leave. That’s why I decided to study Sony in order to understand how companies can change their organizational culture in order to create a conducive environment for working fathers to take up paternity leave.

What’s distinctive about Japan as a case study? What can we, and our readers, learn from it? 

As mentioned above, Japan is an extreme case in the sense that there is a huge gap between what is available for fathers and what they actually take up. We can learn from the case of Japan that just because we have a generous paternity leave regime, does not mean we can use it in practice. In other words, policymakers should be aware of the environment and set realistic policies at first and gradually get closer to the ideal. My friend Alexander Zapesochny gave me a valuable insight that perhaps more fathers in Japan would have taken paternity leave if the length of leave available were only four weeks. Because the gap between reality and ideal was so huge, for many, paternity leave exists only on paper. The case of Japan could provide an example that a ‘staircase’ approach rather than an ‘elevator’ approach get you faster to your destination.

In addition,  the case of Sony could provide the readers with valuable lessons on how we can create a conducive environment for fathers to take paternity leave even in a context like Japan where the majority of the population have not embraced the idea of paternity leave.

What do you think about the question of shared parental leave in addition to paternity leave? Can you outline your thoughts on these?

I believe that shared parental leave will not result in promoting gender equality, because the vast majority of shared leave will be used by the mother due to financial reasons and gender stereotypes. For instance, in Norway, the fathers’ uptake rate of shared parental leave was quite low until 1993 where the Norwegian government successfully increased the rate by reserving four weeks for fathers. If we want fathers to take parental leave, it should be an individual entitlement.

What do you think can be done to motivate employers to adopt and promote these policies in the workplace?

Firstly, researchers could conduct a quantitative analysis on the financial benefits of paternity leave. In fact, a study suggests that it is financially beneficial for employers if more male employees take up paternity leave because the recipients showed more job satisfaction and retention rate, both factors exceed the cost of their temporary absence. We need to mainstream this aspect of paternity leave. Second, brave people need to be the first ones to take paternity leave within the firm. Studies have shown that, once someone has taken paternity leave, many men follow suit many men follow suit. We need more trailblazers.

“Digital gender-based violence: can education stop abuse?” GenPol at the European Parliament.

  • November 9th, 2018
  • Blog

Hosted by MEP Mr Brando Benifei (S&D) 

Organised by GenPol, with IPPF Eropean Network, European Women’s Lobby & SOS Music Media, November 21st, 13h-15h.

Please register at this link by November 18thhttps://goo.gl/forms/zVeLcVg2dcZajDlZ2

 Cyber-violence is real, and harms millions worldwide. Digital gender-based abuse is a specific form of violence against women and girls, and includes phenomena as serious as revenge porn, gender-based slurs and online harassment, cyber stalking, and unsolicited pornography. While cyber-violence should be seen as a continuum of off-line abuse (research shows that traditional and online forms of harassment are correlated), digital violent acts have a unique and pernicious dimension. Due to the practical problems of policing the Internet, survivors of digital abuse are often forced to relive their experiences over and over again. Yet digital gender-based violence is still poorly understood, and its impact vastly underestimated. Awareness-raising work and formal and informal educational tools, targeting not only potential perpetrators among digital natives, but also Internet service providers, policy-makers, judiciary and law enforcement agencies, are urgently needed.

Following the publication of its first policy paper, “Can Education stop abuse?”, the gender think tank GenPol, together with IPPF European Network, European Women’s Lobby and SOS Music Media, is excited to invite you to a high profile advocacy event on these themes. Bringing at the European Parliament a pool of experts, policy-makers, civil servants and advocates, we will discuss how educational tools can be used to tackle digital gender-based violence. The panel will be followed by a lively Q&A, including contributions from education and women’s rights activists.


Mr Brando Bonifei, MEP

Dr Lilia Giugni- University of Cambridge & GenPol CEO

Ms Irene Donadio – IPPF European Network

Ms Asha Allen – European Women’s Lobby

Chair – Tanner Taddeo, SOS Music Media

Stopping Online Abuse: How Do We Make The Internet A Safer Place?

  • October 27th, 2018
  • Blog

This is the first of a two-part blog series by our Research Associate Venera Dimulescu, drawing on her first-hand research in to non-consensual pornography in Romania. In this first entry, she discusses the discourses and perceptions surrounding the rise of the ‘digital age’, and how we have failed to address the need for safety and security in our quest for progress.



During the two years I have spent researching non-consensual pornography in Romania, I’ve noticed that the problem in tackling online abuse is twofold: there’s a lack of accurate information about the digital world and an unsuitable choice of words in the construction of the narrative. When I started diving into the subject,  I noticed there was a lack of information about how Romanians deal with online violence. There were no case studies, no statistics: only fast internet connections and increasingly cheaper smartphones and laptops. Everybody seemed to know something about the phenomena from the internet. But nobody estimated the impact of online violence, nor did they have the knowledge to combat it. As both a researcher and a journalist, I wanted to find a way, and ask how the language we use could help change these perspectives.

You might be wondering how we’ve ended up here? A few decades ago, the internet was perceived as a space of great opportunity: an alternative to the real world, a place where the right to freedom of expression would knock down the rule of prejudice and discrimination. In the first period of the technological revolution, offline/online and human/machine dichotomies were the new extensions of the old-fashioned mind/body thinking. Computers were designed as machines which would enable humans to experience this brave new world mentally and anonymously, away from their biological identities. The physical body was perceived as direct evidence of prejudice forced upon people by social norms: your neighbour’s gender, skin colour or physical strength help you recognize social status and hierarchy. The reality, in fact, was quite different.

Despite its promise of an egalitarian future, online chat-rooms and public threads are hotbeds of violence against women. Anonymous hackers or trolls harass, frequently intimidate or steal personal information from women participating in the digital public sphere. One of the most widespread practice in online abuse is privacy invasion. Users often share intimate thoughts and images to strangers online, guarded by the comfort zone of their geographical distance, and many think their nudes are safe in their lovers’ private inbox. People often witness powerlessly how their personal lives are turned into public, accessible goods on the internet without their consent. In 2014, one in ten women living in the European Union were experiencing online abuse from the age of 15.

Over the course of the last decade, researchers have discovered that online abuse has direct impact on our lives. It leaves physical marks on the human brain, since psychological trauma is no different from physical trauma when it comes to our brain’s activity. However, information about the serious impact of online abuse on users’ mental health or legal protection often remains within the small academic communities. As GenPol’s policy paper highlighted, many European countries lack proper policies to combat and prevent online violence, although some have the legal tools.

As Internet users, we can only expect an increase in online violence, as the internet has pierced through almost all of the EU households and has become a global village with worldwide access to information. A proper educational model is needed to help people understand online social phenomena and their impact.
This should include teaching consent, privacy rights and legal protection online. But the first step in the process of understanding the digital world should be changing the narrative. It’s time academics used their privilege and built bridges in communication with teenagers, parents, teachers, politicians, authorities. By failing to address these gaps, we’re passively reinforcing epistemic injustice: victims won’t be equipped with the necessary vocabulary to describe their experience of abuse as we fail to explain the concepts to them with simple, accessible words.

My Time As An Intern at GenPol

  • October 12th, 2018
  • Blog

Having recently completed a summer internship at GenPol, I can now look back and reflect on my experiences. My role was to conduct research on whichever major projects were happening at GenPol HQ that week. I had known that GenPol was a broad and dynamic think tank, but it was not until I began my internship that I realised just how many different projects and ideas were on the go. This was something that really struck me, not only because of GenPol’s of relatively compact team, but also because despite having fingers in many different pies, the team remained organised and focused. GenPol is a bold and ambitious social enterprise and I feel proud and privileged to have been a part of it.

The work I carried out varied from week to week. The first week was focused on a project in collaboration with the African Technology Business Network. This was in relation to a new proposal that highlighted the importance of digital literacy, with regards to 6 chosen African countries. The project was concerned with how the increasing gender gap is widened by the lack of digital literacy amongst young girls, putting them even further behind their male counterparts.

I then was put on a project to study sexual harassment and bullying in the Arts. This covered a huge range of industries from music to theatre, to art and writing and much more. I uncovered research regarding what is commonly known as the ‘Superstar Effect’. This is when certain people high up in the industry are seemingly ‘allowed’ to behave often highly inappropriately due to the idea of these people as ‘creative geniuses’. In other words, their actions are excused because of the teleological consequences: their ‘masterpiece’. As the Arts are highly unregulated and saturated with freelancers, no formal structure is in place for reports to be made in the instance of abuse. We also came up with a ‘business case’ for why it is important that this abuse must stop: women are so often weighed down by this negative treatment, that it so often infiltrates their work. We thought to ourselves, how much more creative talent could we unlock by allowing women the same freedom many men have, to simply create, absolved of their negative experiences?

The majority of my internship with GenPol was focused on how Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at schools, and consent workshops at universities can be improved. This was for an upcoming policy meeting with the Department for Education. This meeting would in part inform a publication that I was fortunate enough to become a co-author of: GenPol’s most recent report on Consent Training and Sexual Violence Prevention in U.K. Universities.

Despite the increase in consent training on a national level, the statistics remain harrowing. 70% of female students and recent graduates have experienced sexual violence, whilst 8%  have been raped at university. Through dialogue with practitioners in the field, as well as our workshops, we quickly discovered that consent workshops were being seen as increasingly effective methods in preventing sexual violence at universities, with more universities adopting similar practices year on year. We recognised that universities not only have a crucial role to play in assuring their students are protected from sexual violence, but a responsibility to do so in order to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all their students. Furthermore, we recommended that university staff members attend compulsory training on gender-based violence, with specially trained therapists to support survivors of sexual violence.

GenPol has taught me the value of high quality varied work. I had always been one of the only people in my family and friendship circle to see the infiltration of patriarchy in everything, whether it would be whilst watching TV, reading an advert on the tube, or even just walking down the street. Working at GenPol pushed this ability even further to look at everything, and I mean everything, from a gender lens. I further recognised how questions of patriarchy, gender and sexism are embedded in the fabric of our society. Those at GenPol are aware of this at all times, and I am too.

Now more than ever.


Lily Rosengard
Summer 2018 Intern



GenPol on BroadwayWorld – How to prevent abuse in the arts

UPDATE: On 16/10/2018 our partnership with University Women in the Arts has officially been announced on Broadway World. Read all about it!


18/07/2018. We’re excited to share BroadwayWorld‘s article on our partnership with University Women in the Arts!

Jennifer Tuckett, Director of University Women in the Arts: “We are delighted to be working with GenPol on this panel event as part of our new major project we are running with GenPol on how to prevent abuse in the arts. We hope the panel will offer important advice for female arts students, women wanting to work in the arts, and those who work with them in the education sector and arts industry”.

Lilia Giugni, CEO of GenPol: “We are thrilled to be partnering with University of Women in the Arts to help prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the art industry. Discrimination, sexism and actual abuse undermine the lives and careers of too many women artists. We hope the panel will offer a little taste of the forthcoming book on which we are working together and the solutions we propose.”

Read the full article here and join the panel discussion on July 20th 2018 as part of London Writers’ Week. Panellists also include The Guardian Higher Education Network editor Rachel Hall, playwright, mentor and Learning and Participation Manager at the Ovalhouse Theatre Titilola Dawudu, and playwright, Artistic Director and BBC New Talent Hot List writer Jingan Young.


[image credit: amira_a]

GenPol’s First Live Podcast: What Role Can Men Play In Gender Equality?

  • July 16th, 2018
  • Blog

You may remember that GenPol teamed up with our friends at SOS Music Media to record a live podcast on the role men can play in advancing gender equality?

If you didn’t manage to get a ticket, don’t worry! You can now listen to it here.

With huge thanks to everyone at SOS Media and The Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation who were our event sponsors. Don’t forget to share the podcast on social media (and give us a follow on Facebook , Twitter or Instagram if you haven’t already)



GenPol at London Writer’s Week- Panel Discussion with University Women in the Arts

  • July 12th, 2018
  • Blog

GenPol are teaming up with University Women in the Arts at London Writer’s Week for a panel discussion to explore how we can improve the transition for women from studying the arts to working in the arts.

Panellists will include our CEO Lilia Giugni- who will be discussing sexual harassment in the industry- as well as the editor of The Guardian’s Higher Education Network Rachel Hall,  playwright, mentor and Learning and Participation Manager at the Ovalhouse Theatre Titilola Dawudu, and playwright, Artistic Director and BBC New Talent Hot List writer Jingan You.

Join us on  Friday 20th July, 2pm  –3pm, at the Diorama Arts Centre, Regent’s Place, 201 Drummond St, Kings Cross, London NW1 3FE, UK.

Price: £5 (or included in the Festival Pass or Day Pass)

Get your tickets for the event here

Spotlight on Women in Business: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

  • July 6th, 2018
  • Blog

This week, we spoke to Dr Terri Simpkin about overcoming  ‘the Impostor Phenomenon’. Terri is the Higher and Further Principal at CNet Training and a Visiting Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University.  She is actively involved in developing programmes to advance the status of women STEM occupations including her own Braver, Stronger, Smarter programme to diminish impostor phenomenon.  Terri is also working on a suite of research to inform emerging workplace structures in the ‘Second Machine Age’.

Her comments resonated deeply with so many of us, and we hope you will take away the same reassurance and sense of power that we did.

Can you tell us a little about your current research in to women in STEM? How did that come about?

My current project came about with a move to develop a master’s degree in leadership specializing in data centre management. At industry seminars or at panels, I’d look out over a sea of white middle-aged men, and I’d find myself thinking ‘where are all the women, why is there such a visible lack of representation in operations, IT and engineering at all levels but particularly in key roles?’ I started looking at imposter phenomenon- there is so much good work going on in STEM to get women in to the industry (as graduates, girls in schools) but that doesn’t seem to be making a difference fast enough – I ended up asking ‘what’s going on? Why are we not seeing a marked shift in terms of women occupying non-traditional and higher level posts?’

So, I replicated a piece of research done in 70s using the same diagnostic to see if there was a problem in the data centre sector. Ironically enough I couldn’t collect enough data from women in these centers for me to complete the study, so I re-expanded it to include women in broader STEM occupations. From that work I discovered that 89% of women were experiencing, or had or experiences of the imposter phenomenon.

What is the Imposter Phenomenon?

It’s mostly fear. A fear that, at any given point in time, someone is going to tell you ‘we should have given the job to someone else’, or experiencing a sense of crushing fear of failure succeed despite a track record of past achievements. There are so many women who want to occupy Senior Leadership Positions but feel totally exposed by the pressure of having to meet their own incredibly high standards of absolute perfection.

But it’s not about ‘fixing women’.  We’re taking these findings into work places to try and raise awareness of how the systems and processes are stopping women from making progress. This idea that ‘you must be perfect’ is a fear so many of us relate to, and that is common across so many types of work. Every time I run a session I stay behind for a good hour as I have so many women suggesting I’ve put words on everything they’ve been feeling. Putting a name to Imposter Syndrome is important: diminishing this preconception that women need to be more confident, that the fault somehow lies with them, is even more so. Women have confidence but sometimes they don’t have a sense of self-efficacy. They’re confident they can progress in leadership but less sure about whether they’ll be able to make the situation work for them, and whether the systems in place and the odds at stake can work in their favor, and that’s an entirely different narrative to women lacking confidence.

Why is this such a common phenomenon? How is it that so many of us will be able to relate to the scenario you’ve just described?

At lot of it comes back to socialization, and that’s a big problem to solve! The way women and girls are raised, treated in schools and at home and in the public media. Generally speaking, a lot of us are taught to be one way: even if you challenge those ideas the social messages and expectations are still pervasive. Challenging those preconceptions means pushing against pre-determined ideas about how (and what) women should be in the workplace, and how they fit into the workplace. Things like rewards, recognition and promotion plans are geared towards a typically ‘male’ kind of management. I’m often asked by very well-meaning men why women don’t apply for senior management positions. Often it’s because those job descriptions identify what’s still seen as a typically male profile  (out there strong, visible, assertive, aggressive). Yet for most of living memory, women have been told that ‘nice’ girls don’t do that kind of thing. It often comes to a choice between being seen as being more masculine or not putting yourself in that role. High profile leadership positions are highly visible, open to criticism, and many women are saying ‘you know what, I’d prefer not to put myself in a position where I am open to ruthless criticism, I don’t want to fail in a very public manner’ even though the chances of them failing are actually very slim indeed.  It’s robbing people of career progressing and our organizations of some outstanding talent.

So do you think the problem could lie in the type of working environments women find themselves in?

The workplace structure still carries a gender bias, and a socialized imposter syndrome exacerbates it. When you break it down people are socialized in a certain way, and when it’s challenged that causes people a lot of discomfort. The fact remains that in many cases this bias prevents people doing the jobs they could do, particularly in STEM which still has a huge gender disparity.

They are still generally engrained of ways of looking at confidence. Women are still expected to be liked, women who are confident and competent are not liked.  It’s the old adage, a man is considered strong and decisive, women are considered ‘bossy’ and ‘bitchy’.  It’s a classic double bind.

That’s sort of where the image of the 80s, power suits and padded shoulders alpha female came from, wasn’t it?

Exactly! But we’re still seeing those kinds of attitudes today. Look at the scrutiny that May and Merkel get in comparison to male counterparts (look at what Boris Johnson can get away with…)

Our sense-making comes down to what we see and what seems plausible. Ultimately women are approaching these positions with a lack of plausibility- high level, successful women in business and politics for example are not visible due to being in the minority so it doesn’t seem likely to others. If we look In to STEM occupations for example, we see very few women at a high level, and as a result we tell ourselves that it is not probable that we could get that position. What’s plausible and what’s real are two different things.  Sadly, when we make sense of the world, plausibility, no matter how wrong, eats accuracy for breakfast!

What can we, and our readers, do to feel more plausible? What would your top tips be?

Know it’s not in your head, it’s perpetuated by the way our social structures and workplaces are set up. This is not about fixing women. Look at your achievements and successes from the past. If, despite a raft of successes you continue to believe the next task will be a failure, sit down and really critically look at all the success that have gone before.

Write up your CV, take your name off it and ask someone else what they think of the achievements identified.  Take note of their rational, unbiased account of successes and talents on the CV. The key thing is to critically examine your achievements and previous successes and accept that the success is yours and, more than likely, replicatable.

Stop saying ‘but’ when someone says you did a good job it can be too easy to say ‘thanks, but I just got lucky, or it was someone else…’. Just accept the praise! No buts! Once you start setting up changes in language you set up  changes in behaviors, so accept that praise. This sort of thing is easy to say, but harder to enact, so maybe think about getting a mentor (someone who has no vested interest in being nice, but who can give constructive, personalized feedback that’s rational and honest).

How can organizations and  businesses,  take steps to eradicate Imposter Syndrome?

We need to going back to the beginning to strip out gender bias. We need to advance women on non-nebulous terms (feedback grounded in measurable terms). People with imposter phenomenon are experts about making themselves right about how inadequate they think they are, so we need to present them with clear measurable proof to the contrary.

We also need to change the narrative around it being women’s responsibility to change themselves, workplaces haven’t adapted to changes in the industrial landscape and systems are still founded on the values of postindustrial age. With things like VR, robotic path automation, artificial intelligence expanding at a rate of knots these values aren’t tenable. I feel that if you’re going to break the traditional system you ay as well rebuild them in a guise that strips out a pervasive gender bias.

My own research is moving towards looking at how organizations need to prepare for the 4th industrial revolution, where many traditional systems don’t work anymore. I think that If you’re challenging male structures you also challenge female structures and move towards a working culture that dismantles this gender binary and gendered expectations. I disagree with the statement that ‘the future is female’ however well-intentioned that might be. We need to move past that. The future is collective, human, and it’s up to us to work towards it.

Finally, Post  #MeToo, do you think the tide has started to turn for women in business, or do we still have a long way to go?

Well, we’ve still got 217 years to go until we reach gender parity if we go at the same rate we’ve moved it since (some) women got the vote in 1918. It’s true that women are gaining more traction in terms of getting their views across, and men, broadly, are questioning some of the things they’ve learnt implicitly. Most people don’t set out to be bigots or anti-feminist or sexist, they’ve been conditioned into a way of thinking. The challenge is looking outwards to the world as opposed to looking at the individual in front of us. If we take the example of the Brock Turner case, I think many men started to ask, why is his future more important than the future of the woman whose life he has irreparably damaged? It’s not on women to adapt or modify themselves, but for individuals to be held accountable, as we’ve also seen with the Harvey Weinstein backlash. I think those examples are challenging these ingrained perceptions of women’s place in the world. It’s making people realise how stupid and damaging this archaic mindset always was.

Momentum is gearing up. People, not just women, are questioning some of the values and ideas we’ve taken for granted. That can only be a good thing -and it can’t come quick enough.

[photo credits: Terri Simpkin]

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