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Working hard to balance childcare and work with the support of everyone around me (Saori Mizuno, Postdoctoral Researcher)

Saori Mizuno Photo1

Many women active in a variety of fields work at RIKEN BRC. We interviewed 12 of these women for their insights on how they continue to flourish with work styles that fit their particular lifestyles.

In this interview, we spoke with Saori Mizuno, a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Experimental Animal Division.

She has two children, and makes use of RIKEN’s programs to balance childcare and work. She spoke to us about her thoughts on work, motivation, and hopes for the future, among other topics.


  1. Saori Mizuno
  2. Postdoctoral Researcher, Experimental Animal Division
  3. Mizuno joined RIKEN in 2018. She has worked in the Experimental Animal Division since she first joined, and has primarily been involved with both genome analysis for newly developed mouse strains and information dissemination thorough introductory and academic contents of mouse resources. She had her second child in 2021, and returned to work after an eight-week maternity leave. Mizuno is currently working at home, using a program that exempts employees from having to come in to work while they are caring children.

I just diligently did what was in front of me and before I knew it, I was a researcher.

I have to go back to my high school days to find the roots of my interest in the research profession. This was when embryonic stem cells (ESCs) were a big topic, and when I was in my first year of high school, I was really interested in this and just wanted to manipulate ESCs.

Around this time, we had a chance to tell our school what kind of careers we were interested in, and I wrote down “biology,” kind of on a whim, and this led me to a university with a focus on biology. Until I applied for a job at RIKEN with an introduction by my university professor, I was working in a laboratory that developed gene-modified mice using ESCs and various methods.

I am really excited that my dream of manipulating ESCs had been realized, but also surprised that I’ve been involved in research this long, because it’s not as if I had a strong desire to become a researcher from the start. It feels as though I just put all my efforts into what I was interested in at that time and what I had chosen to do, and found myself here with the title of “researcher.”

Research may seem like a daunting profession to get into, but I think it’s also good to just try it out, like I did, simply because you like it or it seems interesting. This feeling is really important in terms of continuing work, and this environment will really satisfy your curiosity.

The support of other working mothers who came before me helps me balance work with caring my children.

Saori Mizuno Photo2

When I joined RIKEN, I was really surprised by how many women there were. There were lots of other women working while caring children, like me, which really encouraged me. They told me how to take time off, and gave me advice on how to balance childcare and work. I’ve been helped by these other working mothers who’ve already gone through this countless times.

The male employees are also understanding about child-rearing, not just the women. The workplace climate just generally seems to support childcare, so I’m able to work here with peace of mind as well.

Another appealing aspect of RIKEN is that it has many programs for childcare, such as five days off a year to nurse care, like when children are sick or for vaccinations, and when your children are young, employees can take partial days off, reducing each workday by up to two hours per day.

Particularly in the case of women, work is affected when their life stages change. A full range of programs means that there are more options for work styles after having children, and employees can find a work–life balance that fits them.

I returned to work after maternity leave with my second child and every day is busy but fulfilling.

In 2021, my second child was born. I’ve always liked work, and really wanted to continue working after my child was born if there was an environment that made it possible, so I returned to work without taking a childcare leave.

However, I was unable to enroll my child in childcare facility, and it was difficult to work the way I always had. So I used RIKEN’s childcare support program that exempts employees from coming in to work while they are raising children so that I could return to work while still being at home.

Since I cannot run experiments, I’m mainly in charge of information dissemination, such as writing articles introducing mouse resources on the website of the Experimental Animal Division that I belong to. Unlike experiments, it’s hard to directly see the results, but I find it both challenging and interesting.

When I’m not working, the rest of my time is completely consumed with taking care of my children. There is no time to relax, but I have my family’s understanding, and while it can be rough, my days are fulfilling.

In both my work and personal life, I just keep in mind that all I need to do is steadily do the task in front of me. I hope to continue this challenge of balancing childcare and work with the support of everyone around me.

Saori Mizuno Photo3