U.S. envoy's wife advocates better career-family balance in Japan
Thursday, October 07, 2021 5:47 AM

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TOKYO, Oct. 7, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- Susan Roos, the wife of U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos who is continuing her career as a lawyer, called Thursday for a better balance between work and family life in Japan, saying it will bring economic benefits and help the country to cope with a shrinking workforce in the rapidly aging society.

Speaking at a seminar of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Roos noted the importance of increasing the female workforce in Japan, referring to a recent Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) report that found Japanese gross domestic product could grow by as much as 15 percent if women's overall employment rate is raised to the same level as men.

''I understand one of the major hurdles for Japanese women entering the workforce is the inflexibility of work hours. I see this not only as a problem for Japanese working women and mothers, but also for Japanese men and fathers,'' said the mother of two, who has been working for 28 years in the field of employment and labor law.

Roos said that in the United States, the administration of President Barack Obama has promoted steps to encourage accommodating working environments such as flexible working hours and telecommuting.

''U.S. lawmakers and politicians have made women and family issues a top priority in American society and the effects of this has had a hugely successful impact on the economy and our society as a whole,'' she said.

A partner in a law firm who travels back and forth between Japan and the United States for her work, Roos said it is important for the two countries to share their experience and continue to promote ''dialogue that will provide meaningful solutions'' to the challenges of balancing career and family.

Concerning views in Japan about women and work, Roos mentioned that at an event involving women entrepreneurs in Gifu Prefecture earlier this month a Japanese male speaker repeatedly said that he believes Japanese women ''take pleasure in working as homemakers.''

''I'm not saying we as women shouldn't be able to make a choice to stay at home. I really believe that women should have their choice to do whatever they want,'' she said. ''In Japan, we have a long way to go to break down cultural stereotypes.''

She said cultural change is a ''slow process'' and it has been taking place in the United States as well as in Japan for decades. The ambassador's wife also said these challenges should not be viewed as women's issues as they ''have a harmful effect on families and put a strain on society as a whole.''

Citing a 2006 Japanese government report that said Japanese fathers spend only 33 minutes a day helping with childcare duties, compared with 3 hours spent by American fathers, Roos stressed the importance of pop culture in changing people's behavior.

She said many young Americans grow up seeing fathers who take a more active role in raising children and working mothers ''as a very natural part of everyday American life.''

''Recently, celebrities such as Brad Pitt are well known for being very caring, involved fathers and they are very influential role models for other young men,'' Roos said.

She said Obama and first lady Michelle are ''the prime examples of two working parents'' and the president ''has urged American fathers to play an even more active role in their children's upbringing.''

 

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