October 20th, 2020

Finding ways around corporate barriers


By Letter to the Editor on July 18, 2020.

About three decades ago, we began to see more women in theological schools overtaking men. We see the same trend unfolding in law and medical Schools. The result is apparent at the press conferences on COVID-19. Many women appear as Chief Medical Officers representing provinces. The same is true of other professions like law and veterinary medicine. Likewise you see larger number of persons from ethnic minority groups in those professions.

Though it is a positive development, it also exposes a negative side. We have seen misogynist and racist attacks on women by angry white men, such as the one against Dr. Theresa Tam, the federal Chief Public Health Officer, by Conservative politicians. Some people have not quite caught up with the 21st century. They will soon find themselves left in the museums like dinosaur fossils.

Another important point is that it reveals the invisible wall built around the big corporate board rooms. Large numbers of women and persons from minority ethnic groups in the professions is the result of the barrier. For many decades, many Jewish parents have encouraged their children to go into law and medicine. Americans and Canadians of Asian descent have followed suit close behind.

According to a sociologist who specializes in “Sociology of Work,” there is an unspoken protective barrier around the class that controls big corporations. For women, it has been known as the “glass ceiling.” It prevents women and minority groups to join the clique of highly paid executive men and/or membership in the “board room.”

In Japan, it is called “Gakubatsu,” which is “old boys’ network” from elite universities, like Keio, Todai and Waseda, that controls the board rooms and the government bureaucracy. Few people admit its existence, but it’s there. “Collegiality” is the excuse they use to exclude capable women and minorities.

The result is law and medicine have become the choice for those women and people of minority groups who are excluded from high executive positions and the board rooms of big corporations. In law and medicine, skills count more than the connections with “Dad’s old buddies.” When I came to Canada in 1957, I worked among Japanese Canadians. I saw it was common for parents to encourage their children to go into law and medicine. And they did.

Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui

Lethbridge

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