Noie Motohashi flew to the Sri Lankan capital Colombo last year, choosing an intern job at a pottery maker there over a job offered by a Japanese company.
Despite the language barrier and cultural differences, the 22-year-old Tokyo art college student thought that the experience would be valuable and that she would resume job hunting in Japan later.
Motohashi is one of the “second generation,” or the “daughter generation,” of women who entered Japan’s workforce after the equal employment opportunity law took effect in 1986, requiring employers to provide equal treatment for men and women in hiring, training and promotion.
Looking back over the past 30 years since then, Motohashi’s mother, Yuka Mitsuhata, congratulates her daughter’s generation for having more job options.
Mitsuhata entered a company in 1989 and pursued a mainstream career, working until the last train every day. Back then, however, it was considered normal for Japanese women to quit working as soon as they got married.
Mitsuhata thought it was all right not to quit because of marriage, but found it difficult to escape the idea that a woman’s working life was over after giving birth.
“There is an atmosphere these days that it is natural for women to continue working, and an internship was something I could not have,” Mitsuhata, 51, said. “I’m jealous.”
Mitsuhata left the job she got immediately after graduation but started a business in 1997 making maternity and nursing clothes. Her company, Mo-House, is known for a unique working style that allows employees to bring their babies to the office.
A flexible attitude in seeking employment is common to women in the “second generation of the employment law.”
Sakika Komori, a 22-year-old student at a research and engineering college in Tokyo, is looking for an engineering job. When she looks at potential employers, she pays close attention to their benefit and support systems for balancing work with family life.
She also wants to leave her options open.
“I also want to leave open the possibility of marriage and childbirth. I don’t really feel like fixing everything regarding what to do in the future. Also, I don’t think you need to stick to just one company for the rest of your life.”
Komori grew up seeing her mother, who also started working soon after the equal opportunity law was introduced, enjoy working in various positions.
She says some of her friends want to stay at home, but thinks “working sounds fun and it’s a good thing.”