An office lady, often abbreviated OL, is a female office worker in Japan who performs generally pink collar tasks such as serving tea and secretarial or clerical work. Office ladies are usually full-time permanent staff, although the jobs they perform usually have little opportunity for promotion, and there is usually the tacit expectation that they leave their jobs once they get married.
The rise in OLs began after World War II, as offices expanded. They were first known as "BGs" (for Business Girls), but it was later found that English-speakers used a similar acronym, B-girls, to refer to "bargirls". Josei Jishin, a women's magazine, ran a competition to find a better name for the business girls. OL was chosen in 1963 from the entries.
According to Miyako Inoue, "The Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) was enacted in 1986, and phased into implementation. Although the EEOL had virtually no effect in changing discriminatory business practices, it was promoted nationally by the government."
OL stock characters are frequently found in josei manga and anime, often portrayed as attractive, clever, and wistful individuals bored with their jobs, over-pressured by their families, and facing psychological issues.
- The Shomuni franchise includes manga, television series and films about office ladies.
- The manga and anime series Oruchuban Ebichu, for example, features an office lady character appropriately named OL.
- The warrior characters Linna Yamazaki (Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040) and Arisa and Kyouko (All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku) have day jobs as office ladies.
- Most major characters in OL Shinkaron are office ladies.
- In Re: Cutie Honey, the titular Honey uses her OL job as a way to disappear from work without being noticed.
- Office Lady and Salaryman are Trainer classes in the original Japanese version of Pokémon Black and White, appearing in the commercial hub of Castelia City. They were renamed Clerk ♀ and Clerk ♂ (respectively) for the English versions of the game.
- Kumiko, the protagonist in Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is an office lady.
- Kaoru, the main female character in the slice of life I Can't Understand What My Husband Is Saying! is an OL.
- Cherry, Kittredge (1987). "Office Flowers Bloom: Work Outside the Home". Womansword: What Japanese Words Say about Women (paperback) (First mass market edition, 1991 ed.). Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd. p. 103. ISBN 4-7700-1655-7.
- Miyako Inoue. Vicarious Language: Gender and Linguistic Modernity in Japan. University of California Press, 2006, pg 171.
- Ogasawara, Yuko (1998). Office Ladies and Salaried Men: Power, Gender, and Work in Japanese Companies. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520210448.
- Forrest, Jean (2001). "The Office Lady in Japan". Intext. Writing Program: Syracuse University. Archived from the original on 2007-04-18.