April 12, 2016
The Japan Foreign Trade Council, Inc., which is composed mainly of trading companies, including Sumitomo Corporation, held the third round of its diversity promotion seminar on March 22. At the seminar, female employees of trading companies who had overseas work experience discussed the promotion of women’s empowerment in the workplace. Specifically, employees of Sumitomo Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and ITOCHU Corporation shared their own personal experiences. At trading companies, the empowerment of women is still in the development process, with the full-scale employment of women as career path employees having only started in around 2000. The four panelists all had the experience of taking their children with them from Japan when transferring overseas to work.
Sumitomo Corporation has been ahead of other companies in establishing and improving support programs for employees who take their children with them overseas while leaving the rest of their family support network behind in Japan. The company subsidizes the round-trip travel expenses of a guardian to accompany children on their outward journey on behalf of employees who have already made the trip, as well as the costs of local childcare centers and babysitters. The company thus not only supports employees raising children in Japan but also those based outside the country.
Sari Kako (Construction Equipment Sales & Marketing Dept. No. 2), who participated in the discussion as one of the panelists, was transferred to the state of Florida in the United States in 2014. She took her two-year-old child with her to the U.S., where she worked as a trainee in a local subsidiary for one and a half years. The United States is a forerunner in terms of the concept of diversity, and Ms. Kako was able to receive the support of those around her as she devised measures to juggle her business and private lives and determinedly overcame difficulties. She talked about this experience with enthusiasm.
Female employees who work while raising children and have professional experience overseas serve as precious role models for those employed by trading companies, where working overseas represents an important career step. The roughly 100 female trading company employees who attended the event applauded the panelists, who insisted that women themselves need to continue efforts to change the mindsets of those around them in order to promote diversity.
“It was difficult to do everything perfectly and it sometimes felt painful,” explained Sari Kako. “However, working overseas has definitely provided me with a great opportunity to broaden my outlook and make progress in my career.”
In the Q&A session, specific questions were asked of the panelists, including how to deal with babysitters.
Receiving a high evaluation for its measures to support employees raising children, Sumitomo Corporation received the Platinum Kurumin certification in June 2015.