Posted: 14 Dec. 2021

What is World Menopause Day? How to balance menopause and work: discussion with a femtech entrepreneur

Guest: Akiyo Takamoto, Founder of Yorisol (October 18, 2021)

Event Report

As a part of "Well-being -Autumn and Winter 21" campaign (* 1) x Diversity collaboration, Deloitte Tohmatsu Group held an internal event on World Menopause Day (* 2) on October 18, inviting Akiyo Takamoto, the founder of Yorisol.
With Gentoku Yoshikawa (CEO, Deloitte Tohmatsu Well-being Foundation) as a facilitator, we held a panel discussion with Toshiaki Kashima (Partner, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu LLC) and Fumiko Mizoguchi (Partner, Deloitte Tohmatsu Tax Co.) to learn how to face the needs of not only those who are facing menopause but also their families and team members.

(* 1) "Well-being  -Autumn and Winter 21" campaign: Deloitte Tohmatsu Group's ongoing campaign from autumn to winter 2021 to think about and act on Well-being through dialogue and activities with various members inside and outside the Group.

(* 2) World Menopause Day: Every October 18. Established at the 9th International Menopause Society(IMS)held in 1999 as "a day to provide information on menopausal health to the whole world" to widely share and spread understanding of menopause.

Profile of Akiyo Takamoto

 

 

Panel Discussion

*Clockwise from the upper right, Gentoku Yoshikawa, Fumiko Mizoguchi, Akiyo Takamoto (Yorisol), Toshiaki Kashima

(The following is an outline of the discussion *Partially excerpted)

 

One in two women decline promotion due to menopause. In addition, 40% of women consider to resign or actually resign because of menopause

Takamoto: It is generally said that menstruation stops in their 50s and go through menopause 45 -50 years olds. This means one in four women working in Japan is in their menopausal. Data shows that one in two women decline promotion because of menopause, and 40% of women consider to resign or actually resign. In addition, it is said that during menopause, performance drops by half and risk of depression is almost doubled.

At work, menopause is perceived relatively positive, but one data shows that 20% of the people around them have a misunderstanding that women at menopause are sabotaging or women at menopause should quit their jobs. It is important to face and think about why such misunderstandings are happening.

Yoshikawa: That's pretty shocking. I thought men should recognize this situation first, but how did you feel about what Takamoto-san has described, Kashima-san?

Kashima: I knew someone and she was not feeling well and often had to stay in bed, but I just figured out that I did not properly understand menopause until I participated in the menopause training (*3) in March. After the training, I had a chance to talk to her again, and I was able to understand her situation better then. This made me realize that I had not truly understood menopause until very recent.

(* 3) Deloitte Tohmatsu Group celebrated International Women's Day (March 8, 2021) through the 12th as "IWD Week" and held various internal events. On March 12, we invited Takamoto-san and held a menopause training.

Yoshikawa: It's a good thing you were able to take actions right away. 

Mizoguchi: Does the symptoms of menopause vary from person to person?

Takamoto: It is said that the symptoms of menopause vary greatly from person to person, with 200 to -300 symptoms, and that the severity of symptoms also varies from person to person. Symptoms of the autonomic nervous system, such as stiff shoulders, headache, tiredness, and insomnia, occur even when the person is not in menopause, so some people do not even realize that they are going through menopause. Some people experience severe tiredness, and some say that they cannot get up or move because of the pain, like Kashima-san mentioned earlier.

As a common problem between family members, some men believe that "My mother did not suffer such severe symptoms, so my wife should be the same" which sometimes causes conflicts. We should all recognize that symptoms vary from person to person.

Mizoguchi: I remember that my mother during her menopause had a difficult time. When I talk to her, she would turn her entire body since she could not turn her neck, and it looked really painful. She is very well now at 78 years old. As a doctor, she works in the field of gender medicine, and says that her experience has been helpful when dealing with patients.

 

The first step is to create an environment where people can talk about menopause at work and at home.

Yoshikawa: Every year I feel a change in my body, but maybe I was just thinking about myself. I should have made more effort to support my wife or the women at work. It would be helpful if you could tell me specifically what people are suffering from, such as the pain due to menopause.

Takamoto: Menopause is something neither men nor women are fully informed about. Like me, women often don't expect this kind of change in their biorhythms to occur. When they feel sick while doing their best at work, women may find it most difficult that their bodies don't move the way they want them to, that they are not good at managing themselves, or that they are at fault for being so weak. Though it may take a while, it would be great if we could have a better understanding of menopause so that we can stop blaming ourselves. Instead, we should tell ourselves that menopause is kind of symptom that biorhythmically occur. 

When people have knowledge about menopause, even if you do not realize that you are going through menopause, other people can share the fact that your physical condition is affected by female hormones in or after your forties, or suggest  you go see a gynecologist.

Yoshikawa: How to promote understanding in the workplace ...... It's a challenging point to be honest.

Mizoguchi: Well, I feel it's still treated as a taboo in the workplace, and some people may not want to admit that they are going through menopause. Although both men and women go through menopause as they age, it's sometimes difficult to acknowledge that. It would be great if the person around him/her encouraged him/her to talk openly at work and exchange information. What do you think?

Takamoto: Menopause has a particularly negative connotation in Japan, and it is difficult for people to say, "Are you going through menopause now?" But you can talk about menopause without using the word, “menopause”. For example, if you ask, "It seems that taking care of women's bodies is important. Some people may get sick. How have you been doing?" I think it would be easier for them to accept it.

The word, “menopause” is a little bit tricky. Even when I conduct training at various companies, “menopause” is not often used at first because some people don't realize that they are menopausal, and if we use the term “menopause” , they may not think it matters to them. If the knowledge about menopause spreads a little more, you may be able to realize that you are also in menopause, but we are still at a transitional period, so I think it would be better to refer as “changes in your wellness condition”.

Yoshikawa: Maybe the word “Kounenki (menopause) =transition period” in Japanese is not good.

Mizoguchi: In German, menopause is also called “die Wechseljahre” and I think that the image associated with menopause in Japanese is probably bad.

Takamoto: When you search the term, “menopause” on social media, it is often used to insult people, such as ”irritated old lady” In a TV program a few years ago, an elderly woman was referred to as "being menopausal", so it is often used in a wrong way.

Kashima: When I had an 1-on-1 meeting with a female member, she said "I'm not feeling so well". If I hadn't taken the training in March, I would have asked, "What’s wrong?". However, I had gained some knowledge at the training, so I said, "I don't want you to push too hard". I was very worried about how I could prevent her from overwork, and I still wonder if that the response at the time was right. What should we do as male leaders?

 

Ask people around you what kind of support they need rather than how they are suffering.

Takamoto: I think it's okay to disclose that you have knowledge about menopause through such trainings, but rather than asking how they are coping, I think it's better to ask how to support them.

Kashima: I see. Thank you very much.

Mizoguchi: I think that the reason why she was able to tell Kashima-san about her physical condiion was because she felt Kashima-san’s empathetic attitude. In the first place, what should we do to create an atmosphere where people going through menopause can speak up easily in the workplace?

Takamoto: I think it is important to tell members that you have taken training and have knowledge about menopause, and that anyone is welcomed to consult if anything. Then, people will know that it is OK to talk to this person.

Mizoguchi The most important thing is for people who are suffering from menopause to think that they can safely talk to someone with proper knowledge.

Takamoto: It is important to create an atmosphere that they can talk to you. Ask if everything is okay. If they are fine, they'll say "yes" and if they have any issues, it's important to ask them specifically what kind of care and support they need. I think it is important for the listeners not to be too scared to ask questions.

 

Women resigning due to menopause is a loss to the society. In the future, it will be a social trend for all members of the organization, including management, to have knowledge about menopause and support each other.

Kashima: Deloitte Tohmatsu Group is an organization with more than 10,000 members. I feel that the larger the organization, the greater the challenge to create an environment that gives consideration to menopause in a speedy manner. What are the trends in company-wide efforts?

Takamoto: Because it is necessary to have understandings of people around them, training is conducted not only for those who are going through menopause but also for the management -including the top ones.

Men also need to have a good understanding for their families, bosses, colleagues, and members, and management must first recognize the risks and loss that menopause can cause to the company, such as declining promotions, or resigning.

Ultimately, it is necessary for all members to have the same awareness and understanding.

Kashima: At what speed should we proceed?

Takamoto: I think it's good to start with trainings for those going through menopause, and then expand them to include their managers and team members. I think it will take at least a year to spread it all members, but it will get much better once the person going through menopause and his/her boss have a good understanding. If you include an agenda such as listening to the members actually going through menopause there, everyone’s consciousness will change.

Mizoguchi: A male executive has said many times that he found it hard to attend late-night meetings with people overseas. I felt that not only women in the executive generation suffer from menopause, but also men suffer from health problems. However, I think there are many men who don't share about their health issues. It is important for both women and men to have an atmosphere and a place where they can talk about their health conditions. First, it is important to acknowledge their aging as "a normal change as a human being" and to receive proper medical care to mitigate the changes.

I think it would be good to have a place where we can exchange information easily because now it is difficult to talk to each other face to face due to COVID-19.

Yoshikawa: Throughout November and December, Deloitte Tohmatsu Group is running a campaign called "Well-being for us all". Because of COVID-19, it is more difficult to communicate, but it is also important to think about Well-Being and have a dialogue at times like this. I thought it was necessary to link this theme of menopause.

Today, we focused on menopause, but since it is one of the symptoms of aging, I feel that it is important for both men and women to admit to themselves that this is a natural change as a human being. I think that changes in the body are different for each person, and how we feel is different, but today's session made me realize that it is important to take care of each other at work and in our personal lives.

 

 

It may still seem like a taboo to talk about menopause in the workplace and at home, but it is also a social issue that leads to women resigning their jobs and giving up promotions. Deloitte Tohmatsu Group will continue to provide support and dialogue based on the concept of #Equity with respect to various circumstances and differences of each individuals, including menopause, to lead to true #Inclusion and #Wellbeing.

Professional

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Team

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Team

Deloitte Tohmatsu Group

"Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)" has been one of the key management strategies at Deloitte Tohmatsu Group -to drive the organizational and client growth to be leveraged for social impact. DEI Team is a group of DEI professionals to closely work with the top management -to design and implement a wide range of initiatives to turn various "differences" -such as gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, cultural differences including religion and language, and disabilities, into a source of “strength”.  (See further details from HERE).