In Japan, two in three women stop working after childbirth. HappyBackToWork uses the power of crowdsourced ideas to transform the workplace and help women return to the workforce.

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Women and the Workplace in Japan

According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index, Japan ranks 111th out of 144 countries—down from 105th in 2013. In Japan, two-thirds of women leave the workforce permanently after having a baby, due to reasons such as long working hours, cultural factors, and insufficient childcare options. Research conducted by Google showed that while 71% of Japanese women think it’s important for them to have a job outside the home, only 38% of non-working women believe that Japanese society supports the idea of working mothers.

At Google, we believe that digital productivity and collaboration tools can make work more flexible and help women stay in the workforce. But this challenge is about more than just access to and training on digital tools; it’s also important to increase societal awareness of the issues facing women returning to work, and to encourage both women and men to actively influence work style and culture so that mothers can return to work more easily.

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About HappyBackToWork

The HappyBackToWork program invites people across Japan to share their ideas for more inclusive workplaces by using the HappyBackToWork hashtag. The Japanese version of the Womenwill website also serves as a platform for visitors to vote on the best ideas surfaced on social media. These ideas are shared with over 1,000 partner companies who are challenged to implement them.

Success stories

Two of the many HappyBackToWork success stories include Momoko of Rankup Co, Ltd. and Naomi of The Nippon Foundation.

Before going back to work, Momoko was feeling overwhelmed by the idea of balancing the demands of her busy life. “Going to work, doing housework when I get back home, and trying to be on top of everything really stresses me out,” she shared. Naomi had similar concerns, explaining, “I want to be faithful to my job without making excuses about having a child, and I don’t want to have to make excuses to my child about my job either.”

Using HappyBackToWork as inspiration, these women’s co-workers brainstormed ideas on how to make their return to work easier. This included changing policies around bringing children to work when they’re sick and can’t go to daycare, offering free babysitting, becoming more flexible with work hours, and using training to change co-workers’ attitudes and perceptions toward working mothers.

After hearing their colleagues’ suggestions -- and, in some cases, committing to applying these ideas to the ways they work -- Naomi said, “I felt a new world is open to me. It’s so exciting!” And Momoko shared, “I’m so glad to be able to go back to work.”

A program with promising results

In its first year, #HappyBackToWork acquired over 1,000 participating partner companies across Japan. It has also collected more than 5,000 ideas, 2,000 of which have been implemented to reform inflexible work cultures and train human resources professionals. At Google, we’re excited to continue developing this program as we strive to improve the workplace not just for new moms, but for everyone.

Visit the program's website to see how participants are getting inspired.

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