I want to foster helpful dialogue between women from different backgrounds and nurture the concept of “Happy Woman, Happy All” to prevent more war.



Interview by Isao Tokuhashi


Erin Shiraishi (Ukraine)

*Photo provided by Erin Shiraishi

Last year, we received a message from someone after a long time. It was from Erin Shiraishi, a former journalist turned entrepreneur. Originally from Ukraine, Erin has lived in many countries. She told us that she recently came back to Japan from France and founded ProMaman – an online social platform to help women everywhere to discuss what they need.

In celebration of her entrepreneurial achievements, we requested an interview with her.

*Interview held online


Creating an online space for struggling women

I organize a safe bilingual (English and Japanese) online space called “ProMaman” for women everywhere regardless of nationality or background. Here, they can discuss anything that weighs on their hearts and connect with fellow female colleagues across offices and locations. Additionally, they can find ways to be the most productive and happiest.

You could describe ProMaman as a social network akin to Microsoft Viva, but ProMaman is specifically for empowering women; providing a space where women can engage in discussions, post different topics, and converse freely. Users have the option to remain anonymous, ensuring privacy to the extent they desire, with moderation in place.

*Image provided by Erin Shiraishi

Additionally, there’s a library of useful tools available to make work easier and life happier. Currently, I’m developing a directory of bilingual professionals—real individuals, not bots—whom you can contact. These professionals come from various backgrounds and are bilingual or even trilingual.

The challenges faced by women in Japan, France, Ukraine, etc., are universal. Whether it’s about advancing one’s career, raising children, creating understanding in the workplace, making new friends at a new job, city or country, and so on, women are always seeking an outlet to discuss their struggles and raise awareness of important topics. Though working cultures may differ slightly, people are fundamentally the same, regardless of location. That’s why I aim for ProMaman to help women globally, and not only in Japan.


Journalist days in Japan

I have been writing articles for various media since 2007. I love learning about different cultures and industries and I also deeply care about various social issues, so that was my true passion in journalism. I’ve reported about the Tohoku earthquake aftermath in towns such as Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Also, I’ve interviewed Japanese famous artists such as GACKT and KAT-TUN and covered other topics, such as travel.


A foreign mom facing difficulties in the East and the West

I met my husband here and gave birth to our two elder kids. I found happiness in this, but at the same time, I had to give up my career due to the difficulties in balancing work with motherhood.

Later, we moved to France, where I gave birth to our two younger kids. I’m doing my part to increase Japan’s population! (laughs) After spending nearly six years in France, we returned to Japan.

Balancing work and childcare in Japan is difficult. Many companies expect permanent and even temporary workers to put in extra hours, spaces in hoikuen (保育園, nursery school) and yochien (幼稚園, kindergarten) are often scarce, not to mention that yochien have strict pickup schedules and high costs, while eligibility for hoikuen is lost as soon as one of the parents loses a job or takes more than 3 months to find a new one. Also, unlike in France for example, there isn’t financial aid from the government to hire nannies. Grandparents are not always able to help out, as many live far away or are too old, or, in the case of foreign citizens, can only legally come to Japan on short-term tourist visas. But, even regardless of kids, Japan is ranked number 125 out of 146 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index. Women in Japan often face a harsh working environment and a hard time being promoted. Yet, many are too concerned to bring up various issues with their management so many companies and organizations might not even be aware that change must happen.

Unfortunately, there are no large global platforms that are specifically dedicated to online “roundtable” discussions for women to seek advice on anything from DEI (Diversity, Equality & Inclusion) matters to daily matters like making mornings happier. While there are numerous online public forums and groups for women and moms, many are inundated with ads, spam, trolls, and scam accounts, while private groups are quite small and have limiting acceptance criteria (for example, only for women from X industry, only for moms with kids of X age, etc.) Furthermore, they often lack other women-centered features, such as directories of recommended professionals (psychologists, doulas, etc.) and libraries of useful tools.

That’s why I decided to create such a women-dedicated social platform myself.


World-class accelerators, companies, organizations, and governments began supporting the ProMaman project

Initially, I envisioned ProMaman as a resource for foreign moms. However, upon reconnecting with Japanese friends, particularly female ones, I realized they too faced similar challenges. While the idea for ProMaman started taking shape during my time in France, it truly solidified upon my return to Japan. Having interacted with peers in similar situations, I felt compelled to create a platform tailored to ALL busy women.

ProMaman currently offers corporate contracts, encouraging companies and organizations to sponsor the membership for their workers. We plan to roll out an individual membership plan, too, for freelancers, self-employed, etc. During ProMaman’s early phase, I came across the accelerator program by 500 Global in collaboration with the Aichi Prefectural government. After applying and undergoing interviews, I was selected for their full acceleration program in Aichi, running from the end of August to the end of October 2023.

Then, in November, I became a finalist in the United Nations development project’s Social Innovation Challenge (jointly organized by the Youth Co:Lab and Citi Foundation). Furthermore, ProMaman has formed partnerships with various private and public entities, such as with JP-MIRAI (sponsored by JICA, to promote awareness of the rights of foreign workers) and governmental organizations. Thanks to their sponsorship, ProMaman was able to exhibit at International Jobs Fair Tokyo in November 2023 and Tama Mirai Innovation Fair in January 2024.

Tama Mirai Innovation Fair (January 2024)
*Photo provided by Erin Shiraishi

The recognition continued as ProMaman won the AXA Award at Tech4Good/Business Leaders Forum 2023, a contest and exhibition hosted by the French Chamber of Commerce in Japan. This award holds significant importance as it grants a PoC (Proof of Concept) with AXA Insurance in Japan. Moving forward, our goal is to collaborate with as many organizations and companies as possible, particularly those with international reach, to expand ProMaman’s impact and create an inclusive ecosystem benefiting women worldwide.

The AXA Award ceremony at Tech4Good/Business Leaders Forum 2023 (December 2023)
*Photo provided by Erin Shiraishi


Working to realize a “Happy Women, Happy All”

In my ideal world, every woman’s voice is valued. Often, especially within corporate settings, individuals may harbor dissenting opinions but refrain from expressing them. Consequently, ineffective systems persist. In my vision, every woman feels empowered to share her ideas, thoughts, and passions. Ideally, her workplace not only acknowledges but also acts upon these insights, collaboratively resolving issues alongside female colleagues and, ideally, managers.

Moreover, every woman needs an understanding from her partner. By fostering an environment where husbands and partners are equipped to support the women they care about, society can thrive and ProMaman aims to facilitate this. The notion of “happy women, happy all” underscores the importance of effective communication and connection in personal and professional relationships. Many challenges can be overcome through awareness and dialogue.


Listening to each other, learning from each other, and creating a world without war

I’m deeply saddened by the presence of ongoing wars in today’s world. My heart aches for my country and for any nations currently engulfed in conflicts. It’s incomprehensible to me why so much suffering, death, and misery persist.

With four children of my own, I fervently hope they will grow into adults who contribute to building peace.

I believe that fostering connections between women from different backgrounds and countries could help prevent wars. By recognizing our shared humanity and desire for a better life for our children, we can diminish the likelihood of conflict. No one truly desires violence or death in war.

I envision a world where connecting people from diverse backgrounds encourages dialogues and discussions, ultimately reducing conflict.

“I hope women can be connected & supported worldwide!”
Tokyo Women’s Future Forum (January 2024)
*Photo provided by Erin Shiraishi


What is Japan to you?

I feel like it is my home, and I hope to stay here for a long time.

However, it’s disheartening to see the limited representation of women in key positions within companies and government. There are few female CEOs, executives, or politicians. Japan could greatly benefit from promoting more women.

I would be thrilled if more women felt that Japan is the greatest country in the world. I aspire to contribute to making that sentiment a reality through ProMaman.


Erin’s link

ProMaman: promaman.com/


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