Feature Stories

How Astellas Enabled My Professional Success as a Working Mother

Oct 25, 2017

By Grace Fan, Astellas Working Mother of the Year and executive director, Internal Audit and J-SOX Americas

I believe 2017 is a milestone year in my life. Nearly 20 years ago, I immigrated to the United States. I joined Astellas ten years later and now Astellas is honoring me as their Working Mother of the Year. I feel like this is an opportunity for me to celebrate a journey filled with hard work, tears and laughter all in the pursuit of happiness.

As a first generation immigrant, my husband and I arrived in the United States with nothing more than two suitcases and a fearless spirit filled with excitement for our future.  I earned my master’s of accounting degree and began my career in public accounting as a staff auditor, a profession known for tremendous learning opportunities, long hours and extensive travel just four years after our arrival. In 2004, my husband and I welcomed our first daughter into the world while my career continued to thrive. I was extremely fulfilled in a career that I was very passionate about but I often found myself struggling with the guilt of not being able to spend time with my family due to global travel. When my daughter was three, I decided to search for a solution that would allow me to spend more time at home. Fortunately, I discovered an organization that would provide me with the best of both worlds.

I joined Astellas in 2007 as a J-SOX Manager (Japan's Financial Instruments and Exchange Law, considered the Japanese version of Sarbanes-Oxley) within the Internal Audit department. Our values, known as the Astellas Way, emphasize embracing the whole employee and creating an environment where diverse individuals can thrive. Our extensive benefits and approach to flexible schedules demonstrate this, and allow me to spend more time with my family while pursuing my career. I realized just how important these benefits would be in my life during a defining moment in my career in 2015.

Astellas selected me to participate in their Senior Leadership Series (SLS) – an eight-month career development program culminating with a presentation to Astellas’ Executive Committee at the Astellas Headquarters in Tokyo. While this selection came as a pleasant surprise, I received another shortly after – I was expecting a baby!  I was extremely grateful but also nervous about balancing responsibility to my SLS team as a key contributor with the overwhelming feeling of welcoming a newborn to my family. This led me to inform the program director about my situation. She congratulated me on the new addition to my family and said she supported my decision to decline the opportunity, but also offered to work with me if I changed my mind. Ultimately, I decided I could succeed both as a working mother and as a participant in the SLS program. With the incredible support from the program director, my SLS team and my manager at the time – a working mother herself – I was able to actively participate and make meaningful contributions up to the beginning of my maternity leave, even joining my team for our presentation in Tokyo.

Having support systems both at work and at home are critical for success as a working parent. Astellas’ culture, support from upper management and a comprehensive benefits package allow me to bring my whole self to work every day while also supporting my family. It is not always perfect, but I am able to do my best to strike a balance. I am very proud to be a part of a company that strives to support working parents in and out of the workplace.