Japan’s aging society and persistent low birth rate are key factors driving government legislation aimed at enabling women, in particular, to pursue paid work while raising children. Yet little is known as to how working mothers manage to combine work and family in a country where there is a legacy of women assuming full responsibility for children and family and a cultural ideology that imbeds them in this role. What is the balance between work and family for these women? Have legislative measures contributed to women finding a work-life balance? How does becoming a mother affect one’s career mobility? This chapter seeks to answer these questions by drawing on the results of a study of women with young children who work in a multinational corporation in Japan. Although the corporation had implemented a number of work-life balance policies as part of its diversity programme, women reported that combining a career with child-rearing presented serious challenges and in most cases undermined their career mobility. The sociocultural environment and the gendered understandings which underpinned norms in the workplace played an important role in how the women experienced their work-life balance. The chapter begins by describing relevant legislation and Japanese cultural ideology pertaining to working women. The research design is presented, followed by the findings, and the chapter concludes with a discussion of the systemic biases and norms that serve to reinforce discriminatory patterns for working mothers.
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- Cultural Constraints: Japanese Mothers Working in a Multinational Corporation
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