A series of events addressing female empowerment in the workplace and women’s health and happiness began in January. Spurred by the fifth World Assembly for Women in collaboration with Women 20, which are scheduled for March 23 and 24, and International Women’s Day that fell on March 8, they will continue until May.
The bulk of these events will also take place in March and are hosted by various governments, municipalities, companies and other organizations.
One such event was the March 4 symposium, “Women Health Week Event,” organized by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Experts discussed health-related challenges faced by women at the Itoki Tokyo Innovation Center SYNQA in Chuo Ward.
The event began with a greeting by Yoshinori Oguchi, state minister of health, labor and welfare.
“Women’s health leads to the vitality of society,” Oguchi said to dozens of audience members, stressing the significance of helping women maintain their health.
The first presenter was Dr. Megumi Kawashima of Human Capital Development and Health Development Promotion at Kao Corp.
Kawashima, who is in charge of caring for employees at her company, explained that the difference between company doctors and regular doctors is that their mission is to prevent workers’ health from deteriorating, as well as helping them balance work and health after recovering from illnesses.
She then showed a graph depicting an M-curve. The graph represents the trend of Japanese working women peaking right before typical child-rearing ages and then decreasing as they leave the workforce to care of their children for a number of years before resuming their careers.
The curve showed a sharp dip in the ’90s, but is currently much shallower, possibly indicating that support for working women has increased, or more women have chosen to delay or decided against having children. Kawashima is focused on preventing the latter and eliminating the dip in the curve.
Kawashima also addressed various health risks connected to menstruation and menopause. Female hormone disorder causes various symptoms across a wide age range. One of her slides showed a list of sex-specific conditions by age group. This showed that menstruation disorder can happen to women in their 20s and 30s, menopause can occur for women in their 40s and 50s and cervical and other cancers in female-specific organs are risks for women in their 30s through 50s.
“Knowing about these situations will increase work performance of a company as a whole. Improving health literacy is important for any company,” Kawashima said.
Noting that women tend to be diagnosed with cancer at a younger age than men, she said employers should encourage health checks for female-specific illnesses such as cervical and breast cancer. Holidays for health checks, infertility treatment and other medical treatment should be implemented and companies should set up a health consultation section for employees, she said.
The second speaker, Momo Hosokawa, representative director of Luvtelli Tokyo & New York, delivered a presentation titled, “Traps working women tend to plunge into.”
Luvtelli Tokyo & New York is a nonprofit organization to promote the health of mothers and children, and she shared it has been focusing on the health of working women for the past five years.
The organization has been engaged in joint research on ransō nenrei, which literally means the age of human eggs, or a benchmark of how inactive aging human eggs become, with Juntendo University, Rohto Pharmaceutical Co. and Sato Hospital, and found out Japanese women have difficulty getting pregnant because of poor nutrition and complications due to being underweight. After collecting data from working Japanese women, it learned that typical habits among working women can also contribute to this difficulty.
In the summer of 2014, Luvtelli Tokyo & New York, in collaboration with Mitsubishi Estate Co., set up Marunouchi Hokenshitsu (Marunouchi Nurse’s office) — an office where working women could receive health consultations. Data from the office shows Japanese working women tend to lack proper nutrition, sleep and exercise.
Hosokawa said a typical pattern involves skipping breakfast and prioritizing makeup or choosing clothes in the morning following a heavy dinner the previous evening after working late. Iron and vitamin consumption tends to decrease as working hours increase, but intake of alcohol and deep-fried food tends to increase, she said, adding that individuals who keep doing this for 10 or 20 years tend to suffer from calcium and iron deficiencies.
Such eating habits also increase the chances of diabetes. “You can be skinny and suffer from diabetes, and Japanese women have that tendency,” she said.
Hosokawa recommended that women eat breakfast. “Anything is better than nothing, whether it’s drinkable yogurt or a banana,” she said, also noting that protein with breakfast is ideal, as is a healthy snack later on. Reducing caffeine intake when snacking and getting at least six hours of sleep is also ideal.
Yoshiko Yagi, general manager of Itoki Corp.’s Solution Development Department within the Solution Development Department Group and Research and Development Division, then delivered a presentation on Itoki’s measures to improve employees’ health.
Itoki won a third Healthy Life Expectancy Award in the corporation category from the health ministry, for its “workcise” activities. Workcise refers to actions that are good for health and work, as defined by Itoki.
The office furniture company installed chairs with seats that move vertically and sofas employees can nap on, among other useful furniture. It allows employees to commute by bicycle and its floor plan was designed to maximize walking, she said.
Itoki also focuses on female workers’ health. Its goals for this year are to encourage female employees to undergo cancer screenings, create or renovate break rooms and nursing rooms, and conduct training sessions for those in managerial positions.
Following the three speakers, Kawashima and Hosokawa took part in a panel discussion and were joined by model and actress Mew Azama, and Miss World Japan 2018 Kanako Date. Freelance announcer Maiko Tenmei moderated.
Asked what women should do to make sure their bodies are biologically able to support pregnancy, Hosokawa said they should have periodic health checks to understand their physical condition. Many women are unaware of the level of body fat they need to maintain to avoid reducing chances of pregnancy, she added.
When asked about menstruation disorder, Kawashima said those whose periods occur every three months may think it’s normal, but they are likely to feel tired and stressed because fatigue and stress cause menstruation disorder. She said women should be mindful of this and visit a gynecologist if needed.
“As a model, I care a lot about health, but did not know human eggs could age. What I eat makes difference, so I will be considerate of what I eat,” Azama said.
Date also decided to apply what she learned from the event. “I will review my exercise, nutrition and sleep habits,” she said.
The event was followed by a sub-event at the same venue, comprising a symposium on prolonging healthy life expectancy that was attended by health experts and representatives of companies engaged in related activities.
The Women Health Week Event is just one of dozens of other official supplementary events for the fifth WAW! and W20. Other events include a matching event for female entrepreneurs and potential supporters, a symposium by female journalists on female empowerment, a discussion to support harassment victims and a networking event between Japanese and the Association of Southeast Asian Nation member countries’ female entrepreneurs. There is also an event to allow child-rearing women experience working for a company for a few hours, a discussion on the importance of female leadership in developing countries and a symposium on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, among others.
Upcoming official side events
Below is the list of official side events for the fifth World Assembly for Women in partnership with Women 20. The list may expand later.
“Jibunbu gender x watashi” will be held at the Girl Scouts House, in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, on March 31. It is a workshop organized by the Girl Scouts of Japan for high school students to study gender-related issues.
“Beauty aesthetician training” will be held in Ginza, in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward, from May 1 to 5. The event, organized by Hoho Co., will provide free lessons on aesthetics, hospitality and management knowledge.
“Making the future of sustainable food culture and agriculture — food education sommelier marcie Lakagu” will be held at the Lakagu commercial complex in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on May 11 and 12. The event is organized by the Japan Co-operative Alliance to raise awareness of women’s activities to pass on sustainable food culture and agriculture methods to future generations. Produce from female farmers and locally produced fresh and processed foods will be sold there.
“Training for leaders to promote gender equality in localities” will be held at the National Women’s Education Center, in Ranzan, Saitama Prefecture, from May 22 to 24. The event is organized by the National Women’s Education Center and will be an opportunity to rethink the basic principles of gender equality and deepen understanding of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.