Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Ideal Boss: from the Meiji Yasuda Poll

Each year, Meiji Yasuda Life polls newly graduating corporate recruits and publishes the results on their web site. The main feature—from the media’s point of view at least—is the list of choice for the ideal boss, male and female. This year’s top ten:
1.Ichiro, professional baseball player
2.Shinsuke Shimada (comedian, actor, TV/radio show host)
3.Tsutomu Sekine (comedian, actor, TV/radio show host)
4.Tamori (comedian, actor, TV/radio show host)
5.George Tokoro (comedian, entertainer, TV/radio show host)
6.President Obama (has great comedic timing, host of greatest talk show on earth)
7.Tomomitsu Yamaguchi (comedian, actor, TV/radio show host)
8.Shinichi Tsutsumi (actor)
9.Atsuya Furuta (former baseball player, manager, and current commentator)
10.Toru Hashimoto (lawyer, current Osaka Governor).

1.Miki Maya (actress)
2.Miho Kanno (actress)
3.Ryoko Shinohara (actress)
4.Masami Hisamoto (comedian, actress, TV/radio show host)
5.Makiko Esumi (actress)
6.Hitomi Kuroki (actress)
7.Yuko Ando (TV newscaster)
8.Yuki Amami (actress)
9.Yukie Nakama (actress)
10.Harumi Edo (comedian, actress)
Note that they are almost all media-generated personalities. Even Governor Hashimoto, one of the two politicians on the list, first became famous as a gabby conservative lawyer-talking head on TV before he ran for governor. President Obama’s popularity is also very much that of a media sensation, though it is bound to wane as reality catches up with it: The global and US economies as well as Iran, North Korea and an assortment of international woes will quickly erode his prominence in Japan as well.

Within the parameters of media visibility that determines public taste, there is a clear gender gap. Five of the top ten male bosses are vaudevillians who parlayed their comedic skills into a successful acting—mostly though not exclusively limited to comedic roles but rarely authoritative—and hosting careers. They are of course media creations but, within that world are almost exclusively genuine authority figures, sort of on-stage directors. Even active ballplayer Ichiro’s popularity can be attributed to some extent to the real-world virtual captainship of the national team that the media ascribed to him in the Japanese victories in both of the two World Baseball Classics tournaments.

Not so the women. Except for the one comedian who can credibly list show host among her credentials and the one newscaster, they are all actresses—albeit many of them highly accomplished in other performing arts—who have in recent years portrayed lawyers, doctors, cops, businesswomen and other professional roles on TV and film. It is not their public personae but the sum of the fictitious roles that each persona assumes that the new corporate recruits in the survey see as the “ideal female boss”. Their “leadership” is twice removed from reality.

I suspect that this gender gap is more a reflection of the realities of Japanese TV—the subsidiary role of women there—than the actual mindset of the new recruits who were polled. The presence on the list of one of the few prominent females among the large number of show hosting comedians and the one female newscaster, as well as the preponderance of professional roles reflected in the choice of actresses is likely telling us that young people at least are willing to accept women in leadership roles. After all, when I was growing up, these people, these roles barely existed if any. But I’ll never have any measure of certainty until there is a poll that allows only a single, gender-free choice.

On another, related track, a five-nation world youth survey just released by the Cabinet Office (yet to appear on the CAO web site) shows that of the five nations surveyed (Japan, France, South Korea, U.K., U.S.), Japanese youths scored highest in terms of their interest in politics. Given such interest, it is a sign of the times that the only two politicians who made the top 20 in the Meiji Yasuda poll were two governors (the other being Miyazaki Governor Hideo Higashikokubaru, the comedian(!) turned politician, who placed 12th) and a foreign president. (Ten more actresses rounded out the top 20 for women.) Few things better symbolize the state of Japanese politics today, don’t you think?


Durf said...

I seem to remember that in the distant past, people would actually give the names of corporate leaders in response to this poll. How silly!

Jun Okumura said...

You're right, Durf. I missed that angle.

I guess we could carry the torch for Konosuke Matsushita, Akio Morita and Soichiro Honda for only so long.