When I began job hunting, the Equal Employment Opportunity Law for Men and Women had just gone into effect, and during almost every interview I was asked if I would continue working after I got married. Sony was different. When I spoke to some of the graduates from my university who were working at Sony and also someone from the Human Resources, not only did they not bring up the "work or life" questions, but they all talked enthusiastically about various challenges and opportunities at Sony. The fact that they thoroughly enjoyed their work came across very clearly, and their comments on various interests gave me the impression that both their work and private lives were truly fulfilling. As I listened to them, I reached the conclusion that this was the company I would like to work for.
I also found Sony attractive because its business is global and I wanted to work in various places and with various people around the world, not just in Japan. I decided to join Sony because I believed it would enable me to achieve the things I wanted to do.
After I joined the company, I was assigned to the International Relations Division, which was in charge of external relations activities. I was mainly involved in activities with external associations. Although the job was very interesting, after several years I felt I needed to know Sony itself better. So I took the chance to be transferred to the International Trade Affairs Department, where we dealt with issues related to Customs Law. As the work required not only legal knowledge of customs laws and regulations around the world but knowledge of Sony's international operations in detail, the department offered many opportunities for international interaction. Several years later, I took up a post in the United States that dealt with trade issues. During the time I worked in San Diego, I had the opportunity to work with colleagues of a wide range of nationalities. When I worked on projects together with members comprising of Americans and Mexicans, I was bewildered at the differences in their ways of thinking and getting things done. It turned out to be an excellent opportunity to become acquainted with one aspect of Sony's diversity.
Not long after I returned from the United States after spending about four years there, I married a colleague, and took maternity leave for the first time. Then a few years ago, I took my second maternity leave. Since the timing of my second leave coincided with transfers and reassignments of several colleagues in the same department, I felt really apologetic to my boss when I brought it up to him. However, he was totally supportive and said there was no problem and told me that he was happy to hear the great news. Moreover, after the baby was born, I could not return to work because I was not able to get my child into a nursery school. However, he understood the situation and extended my leave without any problems.
I have been receiving great support from my colleagues since I came back to work. As my younger child is still at nursery school, I or my husband have to pick him up by certain time every afternoon, so my time in the office is limited. The cooperation of people I work with is thus essential in such things as arranging meetings earlier in the day so that I can attend them, and moving ahead with projects I am involved in while I am at the office. I believe it is important to share and explain certain aspects of your private life to your colleagues as it will help deepen communications within the workplace and enables us to support each other if something happens. Gaining the understanding of people you work with is very reassuring when working while raising children. On the other hand, I would always do my best to ensure that there will be no delays in work even if I am suddenly absent from the office for some reason. I am very conscientious about sharing information on a daily basis and make arrangements beforehand for times when I am suddenly unable to attend meetings. In the case of meetings that I simply must attend, I would ask my husband to keep his schedule open in advance, or ask my parents to leave their schedule free in case I have to ask them to look after the children at the last moment. This means that my husband's colleagues are also supporting us, and I am extremely grateful.
I think it is very important that women who want to enhance their career while raising children do not set any limits by themselves. I became aware that there are many women who limit their efforts to take up new challenges or enhance their careers because they convince themselves that they are not capable to do more than they are already doing. When I was first informed of the possibility to be promoted to General Manager, I must confess that I was more worried than happy, largely due to my limited time at the office. However, a senior colleague told me to just give it a try, then think again when I could see how things were going. I felt very relieved and became more positive about the challenge. I believe that when you are anxious or troubled about something, it may be a good idea to just go ahead and give it a try than to worry over it before even trying.
On the other hand, I would suggest that managers for working mothers or potential mothers keep one point in mind. This is because some can become overly protective of female staffs and hold back on certain assignments thus ending up nipping their career enhancement aspirations in the bud. It could be a difficult decision, but I believe good communications are an excellent way to ascertain whether the person in question is ready for the challenges or not. And, of course, they may need a little encouragement, too. It is often said that many women will deny they can do something unless they feel that they can do it perfectly. But since nobody is actually perfect, it is probably a good thing to start by giving something a try. If someone who is no doubt capable of doing something seems to be holding back, a little encouragement and show of support may help them to take the step forward.
Right now I work as a Senior General Manager in charge of External Relations and Trade Affairs Department, but it is not as if I had a clear career plan when I started working. As a result of continuing to do the best I could at various times, I expanded my capabilities and eventually reached my current position. I never thought of quitting my job after I got married or had children. All in all, working and raising children is simply a matter of doing what you can to the best of your ability at each stage in life. As my younger child is still small, there are limits to, for example, making frequent and long business trips, but the situation inside and outside the company is steadily changing, and I am working to broaden the content and scope of my work to meet the changes. I'm sure there is still plenty of opportunities and challenges for me at Sony and I am looking forward to them all.