Retaining Working Mothers in Japan

Imagine the scene:

“You have been working for your company for 10 years. You are well trained, competent, know the company values and are passionate about your work.

However, when you arrive at the office after taking extended leave, there is no desk set up for you. You don’t have a computer and no one seems to know what to do with you.

There is a celebration for employees’ contribution and to kick off the new year. However, you are not invited.

You need to leave the office for an emergency. You notice the ‘stink eye’ from your colleagues as you rush out of the door.

You realise that you are no longer getting put forward for high-profile and interesting projects. People are starting to ask questions about your commitment to the company.

You feel isolated, under-appreciated and ready to give up.”

What would you do in this situation? How would you develop your career in that type of environment?

This is the experience of many working mothers return to the workforce. Your A-Player is suddenly feeling excluded and is about to quit.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The scenario below is happening in offices in Japan where management is committed to retaining competent employees.

“You have been working for your company for 10 years. Whilst you have been on childcare leave you have had regular contact with HR and your direct manager – half instigated by you and half by the company.

You were invited to company events. Even though you could not attend, you felt included and connected to the organization. You continued to be treated as a valuable employee. You were updated on progress on projects and financials. You were offered childcare whilst you attended a company sponsored seminar on returning to the workforce.

When your kids get sick, your colleagues let you know that they understand and you have the tools to work remotely between doctor’s appointments and wiping feverish brows.

You are still seen as competent and ambitious and are offered interesting projects and opportunities to grow. Sometimes the timing is not right but your manager persists and continues to support your professional development.”

The experiences of most women I talk to fall in the former camp. The mothers in the second group  are loyal, motivated and enthusiastic brand ambassadors for their employer.

Do you  want to retain these talented working mothers? In this series of four blog posts on retaining working mothers, I’ll share best practices being implemented in organisations around Japan that are committed to creating productive, inclusive and diverse working environments.

Part 1: Communication during Childcare Leave

Part 2: Smooth on-ramping for Working Mothers

Part 3: Normalising Flexibility

Part 4: Practical Logistics

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