chapter  7
12 Pages

The Seibu case: an introduction

This part of the book presents a detailed case study conducted at Seibu Department Stores Ltd, one of the biggest department store groups in Japan. Although department stores employ a high proportion of women and are often regarded as a ‘women friendly’ industry, until recently women in Japanese department stores did not enjoy higher organisational positions than their counterparts in other industries. The majority of women were employed in low status selling jobs at the bottom of the organisational hierarchy. The mainstream career jobs in buying, product planning and management were predominantly male preserves. However, beginning in the mid1970s, there were signs of change. A series of managerial reforms were introduced at Seibu aimed at promoting the position of women by br inging more highly qualified women into key business functions. Seibu was not the only company to initiate changes in employment policies on women; similar tendencies could be observed throughout the whole department store industry (Rosei Jiho 1978). However, among the major department stores, Seibu has been regarded as a pioneering model in introducing personnel policy reforms for women.