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Japan Wants More Women in Construction. Pink Toilets May Not Be Helping.

“Our staff bring their children here on Saturdays when they have to come into work,” said Miku Shimoda, a construction manager for Takenaka. “Some of the male workers have begun using it, too.”

Ms. Shimoda, 27, is a member of her company’s Kensetsu Komachi initiative, an industry term translating to “construction belles.” The initiative, which was conceived by an industry group, encourages small teams of female engineers and employees at individual construction sites to push for improved working conditions for women there.

But even after such improvements, motherhood can often sideline a woman’s career. Rising to senior supervisory roles at big projects often requires long hours and domestic transfers.

Japan Wants More Women in Construction. Pink Toilets May Not Be Helping.
Japan Wants More Women in Construction. Pink Toilets May Not Be Helping.

Yuho Nakamura, a 25-year-old structural work supervisor for Shimizu, sometimes spends weeks working until midnight during busy months. She and her fiancé, who works at another construction company, spend at least one day of their weekend at their sites.

“There’s definitely this image of construction being a macho industry,” said Ms. Nakamura, who was hired by Shimizu three years ago, “but I heard that more women were joining, and I always dreamed to be one of them.”

She said she hoped someday to oversee an entire building site as a lead supervisor. For now, of the roughly 300 workers at the busy construction site in Tokyo where she works, she is frequently the only woman.

Ms. Nishioka, the Shimizu diversity promotion executive, once had a similar hope.

“I used to dream about going back to the field,” she said. “But now, I leave it up to the younger generation.”

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