June 2nd, 2016
Two years ago, I arrived in Japan from Australia with a stomach full of butterflies—and not just because it was a new job, a new country and a new culture for me.
I was also four months pregnant.
Given all the things I’d heard about Japan—including its legendary long working hours—I was worried about how I would be perceived.
Would it be frowned upon that I took maternity leave? How long could I take off without upsetting my colleagues?
My concerns were soon dispelled. In addition to being quickly reminded by many Japanese colleagues that I was still working for a company committed to supporting working mothers and fathers around the world, albeit in a new role, I was also coming to Japan at a very interesting time.
As a significant portion of Japan’s population has been moving into retirement age, there has been a concerted effort to drive greater levels of female participation and advancement in the workforce. There’s even a term for it: “womenomics.” It’s actually part of a larger government economic revival strategy focused on leveraging the untapped female talent pool by doing things like encouraging corporations to publicize their voluntary diversity targets.