The truth about working women: The 7 types, Sunday, 10 p.m.

Oct. 31, 2017
  • Viewpoints
  • Research

Hello again from the Career Woman Lab. The days are definitely getting shorter, and we’re well into autumn.

The previous installment examined the traits of seven types of Japanese career women by analyzing the results of a quantitative survey of 900 Japanese working women in their twenties and thirties. In this column, Part Two of our survey of these types or “clusters,” we’re going to describe the seven personality types in a way that should make them more real to you by focusing on features characteristic of each. Our theme is “Sunday, 10 p.m.” As I was writing this I let my imagination run free (run wild?) wondering what each type of woman would be doing at that hour, so I hope you find it a fun read.

(1) The professional type: Specialists eager to make a difference

Professional type

[Closing a reference book and stretching] “Enough studying for one day! Studying for qualifications that will advance your career really focuses your mind. I’ve cleaned my apartment and had lunch at a neighborhood café and watched a couple of TV dramas I’d saved up on my DVR and cooked my own dinner. And finally some studying. I’ve spent the whole day by myself, but it’s been a productive day.

[Checking her calendar] “Right, tomorrow is my volunteer day. Getting up early and picking up garbage at the park is surprisingly good exercise. I’ll get an early night tonight.”

One characteristic of professional types is being less eager to marry than other women (see the previous column) and being able to enjoy various activities alone (graph, Item 1). At the same time, they tend to study hard in order to advance their careers or obtain qualifications (graph, Item 2). But they are not solely focused on their own careers; they also show an above-average commitment to contributing to society (graph, Item 3).

(2) The gung-ho type: Going nonstop on every front

Gung-ho type

[To her husband in the living room on getting home from a reunion with her university friends] “My face is red? Well, we really tied one on. Haven’t seen the girls in six months, and they all drink as much as ever. The wine was really flowing [laughs].

“They’re all forging ahead on their chosen paths, but they evidently have their worries too. Hardly got a word in edgewise. So-and-so is going abroad next year to study for her MBA, and such-and-such is doing well at the place that headhunted her. Better pull up my socks!

“I’m going to start going jogging again tomorrow! I’ve been slacking off lately, but seeing what nice figures they had today has made me realize I need to tone up. I’m going to order myself some cute running wear right now.” [Launches an e-tail app on her smartphone.]

Even after getting married, gung-ho types dislike being under their husband’s thumb and want to spend their time how they please (graph, Item 1). Getting together with girlfriends for some positive stimulation (graph, Item 2) is typical of women in this cluster, who want to have it all: a career, interests, and a full social life. They’re often relied on by friends (graph, Item 3) and spend slightly more than average on drinking out of the home (graph, Item 4); both traits reflect their sociability. Chatting with friends leaves them raring to improve themselves not just on the career front but in every way.

(3) The showy type: Fishing for likes

Showy type

[Looking over the social media post she’s written] “That place we went to in Nakameguro today was really snazzy. No wonder a hot model like so-and-so shared it on her account.

“I’ve been fretting about the future a lot these days, but talking with the gang has made me feel a lot better. Plus the food was excellent. It’s been a great Sunday. Tomorrow it’s back to work, so I’ll give it my best and then really let myself go at the party next weekend.”

That’s your typical showy type: eager to swap news and network, and intent on enjoying the present. Women in this category are characterized by the speed with which they pick up on the latest trends (graph, Item 1) and their eagerness to check out places that people are talking about. But while they maintain an extensive personal network, they also know they have close friends they can share their worries with and confide in (graph, Item 2)—an interesting contrast. Further, they believe that personal fulfillment is affected by how fulfilling one’s job is (graph, Item 3). So they are more highly motivated workers than you might expect.

(4) The trend follower: Jumping on the bandwagon

Trend follower

[To her family on getting home] “I’m home! It’s already this late? I wanted to leave earlier, but everyone decided to go to another place together, so I couldn’t get away.” [Laughs.].

[In her room diving onto her bed] “Right! So-and-so mentioned she’d found a new dating app. I’ve been without a boyfriend for almost two years now. Better get cracking. How can I find a really great boyfriend?” [Flipping through a girly fashion magazine.] “Maybe I should put more effort into skincare and makeup. Anyway, I’ll download the app. Set the parameters: income, occupation, height, education…Huh? Are the parameters too narrow?”

Trend followers dream of marrying a man of status—someone tall, highly educated, and highly paid. Behind that desire lies an acute awareness of their own age and marriageability (graph, Item 1). Further, they dislike standing out from the crowd (graph, Item 2) and want to look younger than they really are (graph, Item 3). These women are the most concerned of any type about appearances and how others see them. They are also fairly dependent on their smartphones (graph, Item 4). They evidently yearn for human company.

(5) The casual career woman: Housewife in waiting

Casual career woman

[At a local Japanese tapas bar after going to the cinema with her boyfriend] “What a great movie! The lead actor was so cool. I want to be cherished that way forever!

“But Taro, didn’t you sleep through the second half, the climax? What a shame! I worked until late today, so I’m the one who should be tired. Ah, I’d love to get married soon and quit work!” [Laughs.]

Casual career women are characterized by a relatively strong desire to be a housewife (graph, Item 1) and low job motivation (graph, Item 2). Few of them see work as their link with society or consider it a priority (graph, Item 3). For them work is merely something to tide them over until marriage and a means of making money.

On the other hand, many of them want to remain lovey-dovey with their romantic partner or husband as they grow older (graph, Item 4). That suggests that they particularly value relationships with those who are closest to them and seek the happiness within their reach.

(6) The oddball type: Putting their interests first

Oddball type

[On the bus home from the concert, holding a paper bag] “My legs are like rubber after all that jumping up and down at the show. And I bought all this merchandise. But it’s bonus time soon, so what the heck.

“The concert was just great. What better to spend a weekend than doing what you love with friends? Yesterday’s reunion with my junior high classmates was really exhausting. I won’t force myself to go anymore.”

[Checking her calendar app] The next concert is in two weeks’ time…I’ve got to tough it out for two whole weeks without a concert…I’ll cheer myself up by listening to the latest single!”

As described in the previous column, the oddball type cares very little about work, romance, or marriage; she channels all her energies into her interests. Her low motivation on the job is matched by a focus on her personal life (graph, Item 1) and she prefers spending time with friends who are like her (graph, Item 2). Workdays leave her feeling kind of down: the percentage of respondents who look forward to going to work each morning is lower in this cluster than in any other, a paltry 5% (graph, Item 3). In no other cluster is the level of happiness on and off the job so out of balance.

(7) The humdrum type: Introverted and living in a daze

Humdrum type

“Ah, I’ve spent the whole day taking it easy at home. Mom was talking on the phone earlier. So my cousin so-and-so is getting married…Mom and Aunt such-and-such apparently talked about fixing me up on a date. Well, even if I get married there’s nothing in particular I want to do, so I guess I’ll just keep working for a while, and once I have a baby, I’ll devote myself to being a mother. I’m not a big spender, and I’m quite content to lead an ordinary lifestyle, so things should work out. Well, that’s all still far in the future…” [She thinks to herself as she sits there vacantly watching an entertainment program.]

Finally, the passive, unambitious humdrum type, who takes life at her own pace. Women in this cluster aren’t very fond of interacting with others, so they doubtless spend most of their days off at home. They exhibit no particular consumption trends (graph, Item 1), and when having fun—getting together with the girls, for example—they don’t seek experiences outside their everyday routine (graph, Item 2). They do, however, have a fairly strong desire to become housewives upon having a baby (graph, Item 3). They may vaguely envision themselves as following the same course in life as the majority of Japanese women once did.

That brings to an end our two-part series on the seven clusters of career women in Japan. Not all career women, of course, necessarily fall neatly into one or another of these categories, but defining each cluster as a specific persona and reexamining everyday life through her eyes may afford new insights.

Look out for our next installment, an analysis of shopping habits by cluster based on consumer data.

Eri Nobukawa
Researcher, Career Woman Lab
Researcher, Department 4, Planning Division 1
Eri Nobukawa, who joined Hakuhodo in 2016, engages in marketing planning in such areas as food, beverages, and cosmetics as well as movies. These days she is into releasing adrenaline. Pandas are her favorite animal.

Survey Outline
• Career Woman Cluster Survey
Date: October 2014
Methodology: Internet research
Sample: 900 employed women aged 20–34
– Women in any form of full-time employment were included, but part-timers were excluded.
– Marital status was not a consideration, but only women without children were included in the sample.
– Personal annual income of 2 million yen or more
Surveyed areas: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Sendai, Kobe, Hiroshima, Fukuoka

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