Japan is unfortunately known for brutal working hours, terrible work-life balance and even death cases from over-working. However, some companies are realizing that a change must be made.
In this article l'll focus on the top 5 most family-friendly companies for working moms in Japan.
Balancing motherhood while building a successful career is a challenge for women across the globe. But due to cultural norms and workplace structures, it can be particularly difficult for working moms in Japan. Fortunately, forward-thinking Japanese companies do exist and are leading the way in creating inclusive work cultures for women and mothers.
These family-friendly firms provide exceptional support to help employees balance work and family through generous parental leave policies, flexible working arrangements, childcare assistance, and career development programs. They enable women to advance professionally while thriving as mothers and caregivers.
According to surveys of working women in Japan, these 5 employers stand out as the most mother and women-friendly:
Consumer goods giant Unicharm has been praised for its family-friendly environment. The company offers working mothers the following benefits:
- 1 year paid maternity leave. Unicharm exceeds the legal minimum by 3-6 months.
- Up to 3 additional years of childcare leave available, the longest in Japan. Women can return part-time with full pay and benefits.
- Flexible working hours and telecommuting options. Mothers can adjust schedules.
- Generous subsidies for babysitting, childcare centers and housekeeping services.
- Seminars for spouses on supporting wives' careers and sharing housework.
- "Comeback support leave" when returning from maternity leave.
- Career coaching and networks for women re-entering the workforce.
Unicharm actively promotes women into leadership roles. The percentage of female managers grew from 6% in 2013 to over 10% today. The company aims for women to occupy 30% of executive positions by 2030.
Unicharm's family-friendly policies boost motivation and productivity. Women report higher engagement knowing their career growth is supported alongside motherhood.
The policies also enable Unicharm to attract and retain strong female talent. Women represent over 60% of new graduate hires. Over 93% of women return from maternity leave, the highest rate in Japan.
By supporting working moms, Unicharm believes it gains a diversity advantage and keeps pace with its growing female customer base.
One of the first companies in Japan to focus on work-life balance, Panasonic has lead the way in supporting working moms since the 1980s. Key benefits include:
- Paid maternity leave for up to 3 years and the option to work shorter hours.
- On-site daycare centers located at many Panasonic offices, beginning at 3 months old.
- Flexible working arrangements and telecommuting options.
- Seminars for managers on unconscious bias and supporting diverse teams.
- Active women's networks and mentoring programs.
- Target of increasing females in executive roles to 15% by 2030.
These pioneering women-friendly policies were driven by Panasonic's first female board member, Yoshiko Shinohara. She spearheaded culture change to tap into the skills of educated women being lost due to rigid corporate norms.
Panasonic believes its inclusive policies enhance innovation by leveraging diverse perspectives. Women also represent a growing proportion of its customers and stakeholders globally.
The cosmetics leader Shiseido is renowned for prioritizing women's advancement. Notable programs include:
- Industry-leading paid maternity leave of 1.5 years. New fathers also get 2-3 months paid leave.
- Generous work-hour flexibility and telecommuting options.
- Backup nanny service providing emergency childcare at home.
- Seminars and training for women returning from maternity leave.
- Active employee women's networks and mentoring.
- Target for women to occupy 30% of senior management roles by 2030.
A diversity and inclusion council oversees Shiseido's women-friendly policies. The company believes its business grows when female talent thrives.
Women represent over 70% of Shiseido's global workforce. The company sees supporting motherhood as key to engaging its predominantly female employees. It also enables Shiseido to intimately understand female consumers worldwide.
Specialty chemicals and materials maker Kuraray sets itself apart with extensive family-friendly policies like:
- Industry-leading maternity leave of 18 months available.
- Flexible work hours, telecommuting, and reduced schedules to accommodate childcare.
- On-site nurseries and preschools at major office locations.
- Childcare allowances and family care leave beyond legal minimums.
- Spousal relocation support. When an employee's husband is transferred, Kuraray will find a position to enable the whole family to move together.
A diversity management team oversees Kuraray's mother-friendly initiatives. The company aims to boost female managers to 15% by 2025.
Kuraray's policies have helped women's retention. Over 93% return after childbirth compared to under 80% a decade ago.
The company believes helping employees achieve work-life balance drives innovation and growth. Supporting working moms also gives Kuraray an edge in recruiting top female talent.
5. IBM Japan
This branch of the global tech company provides some of Japan's most progressive supports for working mothers:
- 6 months fully paid maternity leave. Fathers also get 1 month paid leave.
- Ability to take childcare leave in 2-hour increments for maximum flexibility.
- Nursery and after-school facilities available at IBM offices.
- Stress management seminars for working parents.
- Career transition programs for women returning from leave.
- Active women's networking and mentoring groups.
- Target to increase female executives by 30% in coming years.
IBM Japan reports higher rates of women returning to work after childbirth compared to the national average. Over 93% come back versus around 60% countrywide.
The company believes its mother-friendly policies are key to attracting top technical talent in a competitive market. IBM Japan also credits engagement initiatives like women's networking with boosting innovation.
A Warning Alongside Progress
While these companies lead in supporting working mothers, significant challenges remain for women balancing careers and motherhood in Japan.
The national maternal employment rate still drops over 15% after childbirth. And women occupy less than 15% of management roles at most large firms.
Cultural expectations about gender roles and intensive work demands continue hampering women's advancement – especially after becoming mothers.
But the women-friendly policies pioneered by companies like Unicharm, Panasonic, Shiseido, Kuraray and IBM Japan demonstrate a path forward. Their progressive example offers models for creating more equitable and productive workplaces supporting mothers' success.
By providing exceptional support for working parents, these leading companies are setting new standards for empowering mothers and boosting business through diversity and inclusion.
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