The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

ACCJ members at the inaugural 2014 Chubu Diversity Summit

ACCJ members at the inaugural 2014 Chubu Diversity Summit

A woman’s ability to be successful in the workplace is often determined by aspects of family life, such as rearing children. Often, circumstances beyond her control—including the need to take care of elderly parents—may also affect her prospects at work.

This is becoming especially evident as the Japanese population ages, with the expectation that 40 percent of the workforce will be lost by 2050. As this happens, both opportunities and challenges are created for working women trying to move forward in their careers, as shown by the following example.

A company owner—and member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ)—came to the office one morning. He was approached by one of his staff, who said she needed to talk to him.

She was having some personal issues after her elderly mother had passed away. Given her grieving and request for a meeting, the owner was certain she would resign.

The employee said she was going to take care of her elderly father, who would need her support at home. Now in his late 70s, he had health problems and was not accustomed to being alone.

That being said, she would no longer be able to stay at work late when required and might need to miss work on occasion. Her feeling was that, since she was a full-time employee, the company would prefer someone without such pressures at home.

The owner reaffirmed how valuable she was and the importance of her continuing to be a part of the team. With some adjustments to her schedule, and some understanding by her coworkers, she is still employed at the company—three years later—and continues to be an important part of its success.

Unfortunately, this type of situation is the exception and not the norm. Today, many women in Japan’s workforce are forced to leave the workplace because of the need to care for elderly parents or the requirements of childrearing. Japanese society has yet to create an effective system to assist with the aging population and with women wanting to work after they have started a family.

Although Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, 70 percent of Japanese women will leave their jobs permanently after having their first child. It is still widely believed that a woman has an obligation to stay home indefinitely after starting a family.

This is in addition to the fact that childcare may be frowned upon and is not readily available in many parts of the country, with waiting lists for daycare facilities in major urban areas.

It is not just for the sake of Japan’s economic vitality that the country is bringing more women back into the workforce. It is absolutely necessary that Japan do so if it wants to survive as an economic superpower.

Following the success of its inaugural conference, the 2014 Chubu Diversity Summit, the Aichi Prefectural government joined forces with the Chubu Chapter of the ACCJ to continue the dialogue in creating strategies for change, with a focus on Central Japan.

As with the massively successful 2015 ACCJ Women in Business Summit held in Tokyo, the Chubu summit’s goal is to highlight concrete solutions to diversify the workplace and create more opportunities for women.

The 2015 Chubu Diversity Summit will be held at the Westin Nagoya Castle Hotel on Monday, October 26. For more information, including assistance for involvement as an event sponsor, contact the ACCJ Chubu office at chubu@accj.or.jp or call 052-229-1525.

ChrisZarodkiewiczBio
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ErinSakakibaraBio
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Chris Zarodkiewicz, is vice president-Chubu, and Erin Sakakibara is the chair of the ACCJ-Chubu Women in Business Committee.

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