These changes may also improve the role of women as innovators in the Japanese economy and companies. Since group-oriented innovations are increasingly challenged by the new patent law in Japanese firms, the Western model of developing innovation may also lead to a stronger influence and relevance of Japanese entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are a major force for innovation in most economies. In Japan, entrepreneurship is being promoted and supported by the Japanese government. And women play a major role in these developments. Over the past years, an increasing number of Japanese women have started businesses. The reason for this is - ironically - the traditional mindset that has banned women from careers in companies in the first place.
In their report titled “Women Entrepreneurship” published in 2007 from Pepperdine University, Carla Griffy-Brown and Noriko Oakland identified the following reasons that support Japanese female entrepreneurship: Japanese women are not responsible in their families to provide the main income, so they have more freedom to develop ideas as entrepreneurs and can take more risk. Since they are the majority of consumers in Japan, they have greater knowledge of consumer wishes and expectations and can derive business ideas from their daily lives. And finally, they benefit from the advances in technology which make it easier to combine business and family.
Despite the fact that women are still not fully recognized as equal contributors to a company’s outcome, there may be a chance that they can take a more active role in developing innovative and profitable ideas as entrepreneurs. There are signs that conditions for them are improving. For example, women entrepreneurs can find support at numerous governmental and nongovernmental organizations which have recognized their impact on the Japanese economy and help them set up their businesses.
The future will show if Japanese female entrepreneurs have the same innovative power as their Western counterparts. We can only hope that Japanese women, who so far had little opportunity to participate in new product development in traditional Japanese firms, will show their creativity and enthusiasm as entrepreneurs and support the Japanese economy by keeping a leading role in innovation development.