Future of assistants
Mr. Tada’s team supported the management of subsidiaries and affiliate companies. The responsibility ranged from budget planning to financing to general managerial decision-making support. They required sophisticated business skills that I clearly lacked.
There was another assistant, Miss Yoshino, from whom I took over some workload. She looked after the men who managed domestic subsidiaries and affiliates, and I did those who managed overseas ones. My men had to travel to the US and Europe and brought back receipts written in foreign languages. I snarked to myself that they must have thought I could use my language skills to submit expenses for them. It was considered presumptuous to complain about menial tasks in Japanese culture, particularly if you were young. I did my best to comply with their expectations, but my impatience and frustration only detracted from delivering a satisfactory job. I got the payment request to a vendor wrong, and one of the accounting assistants scolded me in front of everyone. I couldn’t match the numbers at the bottom of the data table and made Mrs. Nakata sigh audibly each time she had to return my work to me for correction.
I berated myself for failing even as an assistant, but as I saw it in a different light, I realized the assistant tasks were not as menial as they were deemed to be. They required attention to detail, knowledge in accounting, and strong numerical skills. The assistant women around me were as intelligent and capable as the men to do the same job if given opportunities and accumulated enough experience. What rendered the current division of labor was either the women were systemically denied career advancement or refused it themselves.