Since 1998 the Dawn Center has been holding seminars inviting women who work in various fields to give lectures to women. During these seminars, the guests share their career lifestyles with the audience by talking about how they started their careers, their mistakes and triumphs, or describing details of their professions. The March 2008 seminar will be the 50th of such events. Ever since the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law in 1986, occupations open to women have been expanding, including those that were primarily held by men such as lawyers, architects, and jobs in technology. Also, the length of time women remain in employment has increased. However, the wage differential between men and women and a discrepancy between men and women in administrative and managerial positions still exist. Also, in Japan the labor force participation rate of women by age reveals a distinctive M-shaped curve. It shows that women who find employment after graduating leave these jobs in their late twenties or early thirties because of marriage or childcare. After a given period of time raising children, many of these women go back to work as part-time workers. In other words, there still exists an environment where life events give them no choice but to discontinue their career. This makes career planning more challenging for women, and a lot of young women are in need of role models.
The seminars have introduced people from many different organizations such as a newspaper journalist, a public official, a department store clerk, a broadcasting station worker, an announcer, a foreign capital firm worker, a technology company worker, a bookstore clerk, a hotel worker, a homebuilding company sales person, a consulate commerce official, a think-tank researcher, and a public relations manager. We have also invited people who have special qualifications such as a public health nurse, a social insurance labor consultant, a tax accountant, a lawyer, an accountant, and a hairdresser. Some lecturers were those who are committed to working in a field that they enjoy such as a movie theater manager, a member of a theatrical company, a dancer, a producer, a musician, and a gallery manager. Our guests have also included a Tsumegaki Hontsuzureori (traditional hand-woven textile) artist and a Bunraku (a Japanese puppet play) wigmaker, who work in a mostly-male environment. Our diverse guests have included NGO workers such as an advocate who fights against human trafficking, a worker from the Asia Volunteer Center, and a feminist counselor. The seminars have also highlighted people who have either started their own businesses or work as freelancers such as a zakka shop owner, a business consultant, a travel agent specializing in China, a career consultant, an editor, a photographer, and a writer. Among these people, some 10 percent have continued to work in the same organization and in the same profession since graduating. It shows how women have their own ways of continuing and maintaining their careers. The establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law brought great change to these women's professional lives. Some of these women started out as part-time or clerical workers to then become full-time or managerial workers. They later obtained positions such as a director on the board of a broadcasting station and a director of promoting women's achievement.
We have received positive feedback from the women who have participated in these seminars, some saying, "the lecture was energizing" or "I'd like to work towards the same profession." I believe that these seminars are definitely one of the projects that a women's center should provide.