Employee Interview - Roundtable with Working Mothers -Diverse People

Employee Interview - Roundtable with Working Mothers -

We want to keep working in a way that suits us.
As a mother and as a working woman.

In Japan in the 21st century, “active participation by women” has been described as the key to companies’ growth and, at the same time, as a major part of the promotion of diversity.
We asked three female employees who are engaging positively in their work while raising their children to talk frankly about their working style as working mothers and about their outlook for the future.

Tell us about the division you are currently working in and about the work you do.

Fukushima

I joined the company as an engineer in 2004 and I am now working in the Engineering Operation of the Media Business Division. My main job is the electrical design for the Everio video camera. Specifically, I devise specifications for the next model, evaluate the features of new components, and respond to problems with products that are out in the market.

Honda

I joined the company in 2005, and in the Business Management Department of the Automotive Aftermarket Business Division where I now work, I coordinate with other departments (planning, design, procurement, QA, production engineering, and sales) on the development and production schedules of consumer car products, and manage design events and production and shipment schedules.

Ban

I have been working in the design division ever since I joined the company as a designer in 2008. I work on all aspects of JVCKENWOOD’s Web design, including the group companies. Currently, I am working on the production of special sites, advertising pages, and e-commerce sites, mainly in the media service division. I also sometimes work on research and planning of more user-friendly site structures.

In balancing work and raising children,
what kind of sense of achievement or reward have you felt?

Fukushima

I am an engineer through and through, so I used to feel a sense of achievement when I solved a task or problem that I had been assigned. Of course, that hasn’t changed, but now there is also a sense of “reward” that I feel precisely because I am now a mother. The other day, when there was an event at my child’s childcare center, I saw a family using an Everio, the design of which I worked on. Watching that family looking at their child through the LCD screen, I felt a real sense that I was helping that family to create precious memories and it made be very happy.

Honda

I feel a sense of reward whenever I have been able to contribute to the manufacture of a product, even in a small way, such as when a new product is launched onto the market on schedule. Since I started at the company, my motto has been “work is something you do with other people.” Even now, since coming back to work, there has been much for me to learn by communicating with others through my work, and that is what gives me joy in my work and motivation.
There are days when it is a struggle to balance housework and parenting with work, but when I see the smile on my children’s faces as they enjoy playing and studying, it makes me feel that I can keep working hard too.

Ban

When I finish a website that I can be happy with as a designer, I obviously feel a sense of reward, but lately, I also feel it when I am able to complete a job I have been asked to do within the target deadline I set myself. Probably because I work shorter hours, my time is limited, and sometimes I have to leave suddenly to go and pick up my child. At those times, no matter how much work I have on my desk or how well my work is going, I have to stop immediately and go home. That is precisely why I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I am able to get all of my work done. I’m also very grateful for the support of my supervisor and my colleagues, who consider my circumstances when dividing up the work, adjusting meeting times and the like.

Did you have any concerns before and after taking maternity and childcare leave?

Ban

I had almost two years off from when I was pregnant, but even while I was on leave, my boss and colleagues would keep me informed about what sort of work they were doing and about changes to the team, so when I came back to work, I was able to slot back in very naturally.

Honda

I did have some concerns about the work after I came back. I worried about whether or not I would be able to do as good a job as before when I couldn’t work overtime or when I didn’t know when I might have to suddenly take time off. I worried that the quality or the quantity of my work might be affected. I was also concerned about how much time I would be able to devote to my child. However, now, after having my second child, through trial and error and my parenting experiences so far, I have become much tougher mentally and emotionally and I have had an easier time coming up with ways of coping.

Fukushima

I wanted to stay in my engineering position after returning to work, so I made an appeal to everyone around me. That worked out and I was able to return to my engineering job, but the challenge was how to fill in that eighteen-month gap while I had been away. In this industry, technical trends are constantly changing, so I first had to catch up with my understanding of new trends. Lately, more companies are introducing schemes in which employees on parenting leave can come into work for short periods while still on leave so they can maintain their skills and to make their return to work smoother. Conversely, if I had been able to make more effective use of my time while on maternity and parenting leave to do things like market research on products and researching users, I might have been able to regain a feel for my work and my return to work might have been smoother.

Returning to work as a mother, has the way you work changed?

Honda

Yes, it has changed. So many unexpected things can happen with your children. They might be fine in the morning, but then suddenly start feeling unwell, so you will get a call from childcare asking you to come and pick them up. That has happened to me many times. To make sure I can hand over the work to someone else smoothly, even while I am in a rush to get out the door, I have prepared my own personal “detailed work manual,” which is separate from the official one at my workplace. I continue to update this manual to make it something that anyone—my supervisor or my colleagues who are supporting me—can look at and take over my work straightaway.
I am also much quicker now at switching between “work” mode and “off work” mode. On weekdays, when I get home from work, I am rushing around doing the housework and caring for my children, to the extent that I don’t have a moment to rest until I go to bed. For precisely this reason, to make sure I can make the most of every minute, every second, lately, I am able to switch into mother mode the instant I turn off my computer.

Ban

I am constantly thinking about how to use my time efficiently. When I look back on my single days, I would give priority to the kinds of designs I like, often working overtime until the ideas came. Since coming back to work after having my child, I have learned to “give up” in a good way. Now, I want to spend as much time with my child as possible, so I make a point of leaving work at a set time each day. If I haven’t had a good idea by that time, I make a conscious decision to stop thinking about it for the moment. Then, sometimes, I’ll suddenly start thinking about it again in the train on the way home and unexpectedly a good idea will come to me. For me, this is a very good, efficient use of my time.

Fukushima

I believe that what is needed to balance work and home life is management, so after I returned to work, I started placing even more importance on preparation than before. At work, I reviewed my work processes from the verification flow to keep the number of processes at a minimum, and at home, my husband and I share our schedules for several weeks in advance, so we can keep wasted time to a minimum.
For example, on Saturdays, first I take my child to cram school in the morning and while they are there, I plan our evening meal menus for the week. I then do any necessary shopping in the afternoon on the way home from swimming. I plan out my day in these kinds of slots of several hours. Sometimes, I might also buy the water flask that my child will need for the school sports carnival three weeks in advance, for example, planning my schedule beforehand so I don’t have to make multiple trips to the same shops.

What are your future dreams and goals?

Honda

My children are still small, so I see this time now as a time for me to dwell on and think about the directions for my career, that is about how I work and how I live, and achieve a working style that has a good work-life balance, valuing my lifestyle rhythms, diet, and time with my family. On the work front, even though my time is limited, as well as getting my own work done, I want to add value in my own way, even if it is just a little, so that the related work can proceed smoothly and efficiently.

Fukushima

With my goal of continuing to work as an engineer well into the future, I want to value leading a life in which I do not lose sight of my motivation and sense of achievement in my life. Also, this may sound ambitious, but I also want to explore just how I can produce results and be recognized for those results at work even while working shorter hours, while at the same time being close to and watching over my child’s growth as much as I can.

Ban

For a while after I first came back to work, I was just trying hard to lead a normal life. As my child has grown, I now have more time to think about various things, so I am starting to think about what kind of lifestyle is the ideal lifestyle for me and my family. Also, to raise the quality of my work, and to expand the arena where I can play an active role, I have a goal to improve my English language skills, and I want to keep working hard as a working mother and designer.

Honda

All three of us are in the same position as working mothers, but we all have different hopes for our work and lives. This chance to talk to people in the same situation as me has been a good motivation to give fresh thought to my career and lifestyle.

Fukushima

That’s right. We don’t often get the opportunity to talk to other working mothers from different departments, so I am very happy to have had this deeper interaction.

Ban

It would be wonderful if we could use this as an opportunity to expand our circle of interaction among working mothers!

* Job titles and affiliations are as of publication time.

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