Updated February 11, 2024

Women in Tech in Japan: What's the Situation?


Japan Dev Team

Japan Dev contributor

Be it in tech or science, the influence of women on our development as humans is undeniable.

After all, there’s no imagining where software and computer programming would be without the contributions of women like Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace, and Margaret Hamilton, to name just a few.

Sadly, women have also historically faced an unimaginable amount of systemic oppression. This means that women haven’t been provided with the equal opportunities men had. In many cases, this caused women to be unfairly cast into the background of history, or be overshadowed by men.

Luckily, things have been changing around the world, and we’re having a collective, much-needed rude awakening as a society about workplace equality. 

Nowadays, women are much more visible in the workplace, including in the tech industry. However, Japan still has a lot of room for improvement in this area.

That's why in this post, I’ll talk about the significance of the increasing number of women in STEM fields in Japan, and explore the employment landscape in Japan for women.

Women in Japan’s Labor Force: An Overview

When it comes to deficiencies in the labor force, Japan has many excuses it relies on. 

A steady decline in the working population that’s been limiting the available workforce in the country for years would be enough to make any economy tumble. At the same time, the country has also seen an economic crisis so severe that it lasted over a decade, which is now called the lost 20 years.

Still, Japan has been going strong. Thanks to Abenomics, unofficially yet charmingly named after the previous Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, the country has made quite a stride, achieving commendable per capita gross domestic product that competes with larger forces like the US.

To achieve this, the prime minister has pushed for more fiscal flexibility and an overall reform in the country’s economic structure, which seems to have succeeded, as Japan quite literally had the second-largest GDP growth among all G7 countries between 2012 and 2019, according to the IMF.

While “Abenomics” worked, however, perhaps the biggest factor that contributed to this success came from an increase in the female workforce in the country.

Thanks to the improved laws regarding fathers’ participation in childcare and encouragements to take up more responsibility with concepts like paternity leave and childcare leave for fathers, women have been able to work more in Japan. 

This, as expected, has caused a significant jump in women in the workforce, with the 63% female participation rate going up to a whopping 74% from 2012 to 2022.   

That said, this ten-year period seems to have balanced out the overall ratio of men to women in the workforce as much as it could in a general sense. So, Japan has since been working on strategies and regulations to increase the number of women in more specific fields, namely, tech.

Women in STEM in Japan: The Current Status

When I say that Japan’s tech industry has been lacking in terms of women’s participation, I mean it. The fact that the female workforce hasn’t been prominent in Japan until recently is actually due to a larger problem encompassing all STEM fields. Let’s see some numbers.

According to data obtained from Reuters, Japan is among the countries with the lowest rate of women studying in STEM fields such as engineering and construction. Currently, the data shows that only 16% of women university graduates in Japan have majored in science or technology-related disciplines, while the OECD average is 32%. 

Currently, this number puts Japan behind many European countries, like Italy, the UK, Germany, France, and Poland, as well as The United States and South Korea.

What’s more, another research from the IMF shows that only 7% of female university students are majoring in STEM fields, which also demonstrates that the country is quite behind compared to most of the world’s biggest economies.

This, of course, is more due to women not having equal opportunities as men, but there’s also the undeniable fact that, statistically, men and women don’t share the exact same interests. So, partially, another reason women aren’t as prominent in STEM is due to women being less interested in science compared to men, just like the opposite is true when it comes to subjects like languages and art.

So, with these reports and statistics in mind, the Japanese government has been putting in the work to close the gap and increase the number of women working in STEM for some time now. 

In fact, the consensus today seems to be that introducing more women into STEM fields is exactly what Japan’s economy needs, and it’s largely believed that Japan’s future depends on women. So, let’s see how things have been improving and what the future of women in STEM will look like in Japan.


The Future of Japan’s Tech Field for Women

Women may have been historically less prominent in Japan’s tech world, but this isn’t to say that things haven’t been improving. 

With a variety of new initiatives and regulations in store, the Japanese government is increasingly recognizing the vital role of women in advancing the country's technological progress.

In fact, when it comes to female developers in Japan specifically, according to Asia Nikkei, the ratio of women IT engineers (including software developers and system engineers) has been rising steadily since 2016, which was when the country hit an all-time low in this regard.

Luckily, the cloud services trend that started around the same time has significantly contributed to the demand for STEM majors for both women and men, but a bigger influence came from Japan’s own Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in 2018.

It just might be the description of a dark future for the country’s IT industry or the threat of a potential economic crisis by 2025 that scared the industry players straight, but regardless, the Ministry’s 2018 report on digital transformation has done wonders to include more women in science and tech.

Smaller Wage Gap, Better Work Conditions in Tech

While the government’s effort has, without a doubt, helped more women to choose STEM fields, a better motivator has to do with the pay gap that exists between the genders in this field, or the lack thereof

Currently, STEM-related fields in Japan have the smallest wage gap between men and women, which leads more women to choose science as they naturally want to get paid what they’re worth.

What’s more, it’s also becoming easier to become a part of the workforce thanks to the popularity of remote work in the post-pandemic era. The same report from Nikkei Asia states that 74% of IT companies in Japan have opened up to remote hiring in 2022, which is the highest in all industries. 

So, the ability to work remotely, the disappearing wage gap, and the government’s initiative seem to be encouraging more women to work in STEM, and improving the visibility of the female workforce in Japan. 

That being said, the country still needs improving in certain regards.

Remaining Challenges: STEM Education, Business Culture

The introduction of shared childcare leave and remote work have helped women become more prominent players in STEM-related areas in Japan, but there are still some challenges remaining to be addressed.

For one, while encouraging companies to hire more women and providing better work conditions can be useful, these are only temporary solutions to a problem that’s deeply rooted in the country’s education.

Even though the desired outcome is to have more women working in STEM fields, Japan is still lacking in educational institutions for women that offer IT programs. In fact, many women's colleges in Japan don’t even offer IT courses at all.

Asia Nikkei’s report states that in 2022, only 9% of IT graduates from Japan were women, while other major economies boast numbers above 20%.

Still, even with equal opportunities in education, Japan’s work culture could benefit from an overhaul. You can read about the challenges of the country’s business culture in my post on surviving the Japanese workplace, but the traditional workplace in Japan isn’t for the faint of heart (or those with familial responsibilities).

Work/Life Balance, Talent-Based Hiring

I talked about this in my post on work/life balance, but traditionally, Japan’s work culture hasn’t been the most ideal.

For the more modern side of business in Japan, things are certainly much better. Tech companies such as the ones we feature on Japan Dev, for one, offer world-standard benefits and humane work conditions, but the traditional business world in Japan has different rules.

The traditional work culture in Japan is extremely male-centric, as it requires long commutes and work hours, attending after-work drinks (nomikai), and going home at late hours only to return to work early in the morning. 

For most Japanese women who want to have a family and kids, this daily routine is impossible to achieve. 

Thankfully, concepts like paternity leave have been receiving more attention from both the government and the public, with new regulations being introduced to level out the playing field for men and women, but there’s still room for improvement.

For instance, currently, many companies that follow a more traditional style still hire less-than-qualified candidates for IT specialist positions on a “train-on-the-job” basis. This not only hurts the overall quality of IT specialists but discourages women from choosing tech-related majors as well. 

After all, if Japan wants to raise more female specialists in tech, there needs to be a bigger emphasis on talent and skill-based hiring in the first place to incentivize them, which is something the country is still working on.

In the meantime, there are also non-governmental efforts that help improve work conditions for women and inspire them to work in STEM. Let’s have a look.


Non-Governmental Efforts: YAMADA Shintaro D&I Foundation

Founded by Shintaro Yamada, the founder of Japan’s first unicorn startup Mercari (a startup that’s valued at over 1 million USD), YAMADA Shintaro D&I Foundation is a nonprofit that aims to support women who choose science.

The D&I in the foundation’s title stands for Diversity and Inclusion respectively, which are the core values of the foundation. By promoting these values, the foundation aims to help realize a society where gender, age, and religion aren’t obstacles that prevent people from reaching their full potential. 

Essentially, the organization provides scholarships to women who study in STEM, both at the high school and college level. Through these scholarships, YAMADA Shintaro D&I aims to reduce the gender gap in STEM fields in Japan and empower women to pursue a career in tech and science.

Additionally, the foundation also works with local high schools to organize career education programs that aim to educate people at a younger age. 

Last but definitely not least, perhaps the biggest contribution of the foundation comes in the form of data and reports.

The foundation frequently releases reports on specific topics that are related to the future of STEM and education in Japan, such as “Do Japanese women find it difficult to imagine themselves in STEM-fields” or “The benefits of scholarships for med students”. 

These reports not only help raise awareness by making such issues more visible, but they also provide valuable data for more able bodies – such as the government – to act on or to utilize in drafting future regulations.

Japan’s Female-Led Tech Communities: From Women, For Women

Japan may have shown a slower improvement when it comes to the number of women in the workplace, especially in tech, but as I said, this has been improving in recent years.

The government’s efforts are undeniable, but one of the biggest influences for this improvement is, without a doubt, none other than women themselves. 

As I introduced previously in my post on tech communities in Tokyo, there are many communities for women in tech in Japan that help foster a collaborative environment. These communities not only help increase the visibility of women in tech but they also provide a supportive network to recruit even more female workforce to the industry.

So, as I conclude this post, I’d like to introduce a good selection among some of these female-led communities in Japan that support women in tech.

Women Who Code Tokyo

Women Who Code is a global non-profit organization that focuses on supporting women in technology. Although it’s headquartered in San Francisco, it has a notable Tokyo branch as well. The primary language of this group is English.

Established in 2011, the organization extends to 70 cities in 20 countries, with a membership count that exceeds 290,000 among software engineers and data scientists. 

The group fosters a nurturing environment that’s particularly beneficial for newcomers and is bolstered by a vast network of volunteers and engineers.

Women Who Code Tokyo’s support system includes workshops, study groups, and conferences that are aimed at advancing the careers of women who work in tech. 

Women in Technology Japan

Women in Technology Japan’s mission as a community is to empower women in Japan’s IT industry. The group uses both Japanese and English as its primary languages. 

While it puts the female workforce in its focus, the community extends its invitation beyond cis-gendered women and is open to people of all ages, sexualities, genders, and backgrounds. 

With over 700 members from various industries, Women in Technology Japan offers educational events in addition to providing a professional network and even has a blog that features the latest on women in the IT space.


Ladies That UX Tokyo

Originating in the UK, Ladies That UX Tokyo is the Tokyo chapter of the Manchester-based nonprofit organization. In fact, Tokyo is one of the 40 cities around the world where the group is currently active. This is another group that uses both English and Japanese as its primary language, making it foreigner-friendly.

Ladies That UX aims to promote and provide visibility for women who work in UX design, and there are monthly meetups where you can meet like-minded people in your field. While it’s a project created by women to empower women, participants of all genders are welcome, be it as speakers or attendees.

The events have been happening since 2015 with a monthly schedule, and you can check out the group’s Meetup page to learn more about the upcoming meetings and seminars.

Droid Girls

A deliciously original idea from Japan, Droid Girls organizes monthly “tasting” parties where they focus on a specific Android function or library and try it out. It should be noted, however, that this community’s events are held in Japanese only.

As you can tell, this is an Android-focused community, and they hold monthly events for women who are interested in Android development. 

Whether you’re coding for a company, your personal business, or just as a hobby, Droid Girls welcomes all individuals who develop Android apps to come together and offer a piece of their wisdom or simply learn from others.

You can find out about the past and upcoming Droid Girls events on their Connpass page.

Rails Girls Japan

Born in Finland as a nonprofit organization, Rails Girls is a global community that aims to provide women with the tools and knowledge to create their ideas using the Ruby on Rails framework. Rail Girls Japan is the local branch of the organization. The primary language of the community is Japanese.

Rails Girls is a group that is open to all, including beginners. As the aim is to learn by firsthand experience, all of the tools you need to get you started are provided on the website in multiple languages. All you need to do is follow the guides and join the events.

Although the frequency of the events fluctuates, Rails Girls Japan holds workshops and events regularly. Events are held in different cities all throughout Japan, and you can check out the group’s Doorkeeper page to be informed of upcoming ones.

Women in Science Japan

With events held both online and offline (in Tokyo), Women in Science Japan, or WISJ for short, is a nonprofit organization. The events are focused on networking and skill building, allowing participants to learn together as well as from each other through new connections.

The community’s events are held in English, and you’ll find a lot of expats as well as locals here.

This group is open to all and welcomes women as well as allies. It’s not just about tech, either. You’ll find participants from all types of STEM fields, such as software engineers or biologists, which makes for a uniquely diverse community.

In addition, WISJ also has a mentorship program where you can sign up to overcome distinct challenges as a woman in science with the help of a more experienced professional who’s willing to help.

WISJ organizes events rather infrequently, but there usually are several events throughout the year. You can check out their Meetup page to be informed of the upcoming events.

AnitaB.org Tokyo

Founded by computer scientist Anita Borg in 1987, AnitaB.org today serves as a digital community for women who work in computer science. Active in over 80 countries around the world, the US-based nonprofit also has a Tokyo base.

The group’s primary languages are both English and Japanese, allowing for a diverse community. The meetup events are open to beginners as well as seasoned professionals, with seminars or coding sessions held frequently.

You can follow AnitaB.org Tokyo’s Meetup page to be informed of the latest event updates.

Django Girls Japan

Django Girls is another global community on the list, and Django Girls Japan is its local branch that aims to provide women with opportunities to get involved with coding. The group’s events are held primarily in Japanese.

This nonprofit organization was originally started in Berlin, Germany, in 2014, and is now active all over the world. They don’t just organize events, but provide members with all the resources they may need to get started as well, with guides and tutorials available in multiple languages.

Django Girls is very active in Japan. In addition to one-day workshops, the group also holds monthly study sessions where participants can learn more from mentors, and take a deeper dive into Python and Django.

The best thing about this group is that complete beginners are welcome. Everyone can learn something at Django Girls Japan events, and you can check out their Connpass page to be informed of upcoming events.

EdTechWomen (ETW) Tokyo

EdTechWomen (ETW) is a New York-based networking community for women that aims to support the leadership of women in the Ed-Tech (education technologies) industry.

Despite being a part of a global community, the events held by EdTechWomen are primarily in Japanese.

The global organization is now active all over the world and was launched in Tokyo in 2016 as well. Since then, it has been providing a community for women who work in education technologies in Japan, and welcoming people from various backgrounds, ranging from school staff to IT professionals, allowing for a truly diverse environment.

You can check out their events page to be informed of upcoming meetups, and also check out their blog, which is called ETW Voice, to find out about the latest in Japan’s Ed-Tech scene.


AITC is short for Advanced IT Utilization Promotion Consortium, and it’s an organization that aims to utilize cutting-edge IT companies in developing cutting-edge IT experts. AITCH Women’s Group is the women’s program of the organization and targets women working in all fields related to IT regardless of their position.

While the group’s main focus is to create a platform where like-minded people can meet and network, they have also been organizing seminars and workshops since the group’s inception in 2015.

With monthly meetups, the group has been going strong until 2021, but has paused their events since then. To be informed when the events pick back up, make sure to follow the group’s Connpass page.

While this is it for our selection of women-focused communities, you can check out my post where I introduced a variety of Tokyo meetups to find even more.


Japan Dev Team

This post was written by our Japan Dev editorial team.