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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Job consultant targets barriers

Workplace discrimination against women, seniors said still widespread despite legal ban


Staff writer

The guiding principle of Kaori Kitsuda is that gender and age should not be career barriers.

News photo
Page turner: Kaori Kitsuda, who heads personnel agency Frajouterie Co., holds up a copy of "manga" comic Hello Work at the Age of 40 during a recent interview at the firm's office in Tokyo's Akasaka district. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

To this end, the president of Tokyo-based employment consulting and training firm Frajouterie Co. has been helping women aged 35 and above find jobs.

A true standout in the personnel industry, the 50-year-old was chosen by Nikkei Woman magazine as one of its women of the year in 2007.

Kitsuda said 90 percent of some 200 clients so far have found jobs.

Even 60 is not too old to find a job, she said, citing the case of a woman who gave up her career due to age. However, Kitsuda said the woman has gained a positive attitude about her abilities through training.

"We cannot change the past," she said. "But we can change ourselves and the future."

Kitsuda said she launched her company in 2003 after having been discriminated against because of her age and gender. She wanted to support women who suffered the same fate.

Kitsuda recalled when, divorced and raising her son 20 years ago, she was shocked when the boy's elementary school teacher remarked that children without fathers tend to fall into delinquency.

After a number of jobs in Hokkaido, she moved back to Tokyo to find a human resources job to realize her wish of helping working women in trouble.

But Kitsuda herself faced age discrimination. Around 40 at the time, she was unable to find a job for seven months.

Every company she applied to turned her down, citing her age as the main reason, Kitsuda recalled.

"I wondered why aging was so bad," she said. "Feeling it was like a sin, I was crying all the time."

According to a 2004 survey by the Cabinet Office, 21.3 percent of respondents in their 40s said they could not get a job because of their age. The figure rises to 25.1 percent among those in their 50s and 25 percent in the 60-64 age bracket.

In 2007, age discrimination for employment was legally prohibited. Despite the ban, Kitsuda said many corporations still set an upper limit for employment at around 35.

She stressed both employers and job applicants need to change.

In addition to having more life experience, older people generally have more work experience than younger generations.

Nevertheless, many middle-aged workers also have bad points, Kitsuda said, pointing out they are often not as flexible as their potential employers might wish them to be.

"They stress their experience too much, and cannot flexibly cope with new situations, cannot accept new things, and are too brazen."

In five training sessions, Kitsuda teaches her clients to polish and sell themselves to their potential employers.

Kitsuda asserts that fully 50 percent of an employer's decision to hire is based on first impressions. During the program, her clients learn how to use makeup and to praise others.

She also urges them to list 10 of their good points to gain confidence and present themselves better to employers.

Always looking for ways to help job seekers, she dreams of opening a place where they can come and relax, drink coffee and offer each other support.

"I want to support all people" who wish to work, Kitsuda said.



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