“I was in my late 30s when I started wanting to have kids. But I was working for a major manufacturing company back then and I wasn’t sure if it was the right environment to raise a child. You see in Japan, a lot of people work until almost midnight every day. That’s just the culture, especially in a male-dominated workplace with mostly engineers. And this is why a lot of Japanese women quit their jobs after giving birth. Even with maternity leave or flex time, it’s still hard to adjust back into the workforce. Some get reassigned to lower positions doing rote tasks so they get discouraged and leave. Others just can’t keep up with the pace of long work hours, which is so ingrained in our culture. I think it’s time we change our mindsets about work. We also need more role models. That and maybe wait for the previous generation to retire so we can pave the way for change.
“At my last job, we had to do conference calls with US counterparts. Managers and decision makers usually held meetings during the day so we’d wait for them to finish to get their approval before anything gets done. That means work only really started from 6 pm. This contributed to long office hours. I think if we can change this outdated work style, show people that working mothers can do a great job (or even be business leaders), and also get men to be supportive, then that’s progress. I know some husbands do want to be supportive. But because of a long-standing tradition of men having to work while women having to stay at home with the kids, it’s holding us back.”
Megumi is the CEO and co-founder of CareFinder, a bilingual babysitter matching site in Japan. She quit her job and launched CareFinder with her husband when she realized she was pregnant. Their goal is to help families and busy professionals by offering affordable childcare through a community of babysitters.