• *
    Please kindly note that this story highlights an initiative in Japan that some parts may not be fully appropriate for other countries or regions.

Since a law to promote women’s participation and advancement in the workplace went into effect in Japan in 2016, there have been expanded efforts to encourage women to work, which led to growing interest in health problems that are specific to working women. Women face a range of health issues in their different life stages and many of them are linked to menstruation. It is believed that women today go through 300 to 400 more menstrual cycles in their life time compared to prehistoric women who repeatedly gave birth from a younger age.i

There are many female-specific illnesses, such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids, that women are more likely to develop due to experiencing more periods, fewer pregnancies and less breastfeeding. In some cases, these illnesses are the reason why women require fertility treatment. Women having more periods naturally means an increase in the number of times they experience premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, which are distressing physical and emotional symptoms that appear before the start of a period. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says the economic loss stemming from menstrual disorders in the country come to 682.8 billion yen annually.ii

One employee set eyes on the diversity of working women and health issues unique to them. She proposed taking action to deepen understanding of periods and fertility treatment in the company. Natsuki Toyoizumi worked as a medical representative (MR) for 12 years before assuming her current post at the Corporate Communications Department.
Kyowa Kirin established the Key Behavior “Overcome Barriers (KABEGOE)” to promote corporate culture reform with a goal to become an organization where each employee is constantly changing, evolving, taking action and learning. One of the reform initiatives is called “Meet Up”. It is a worker-initiated program in which employees invite members of management to engage in open dialogue with them. Toyoizumi proposed holding Meet Up on the topic of overcoming diversity barriers and promoting understanding for working women. We ask Toyoizumi how she got people to tackle a difficult problem that is also a socially challenging issue.

The aim was to create a place where people can open up about delicate matters

“What got me started was wanting people in the company to understand each other better through heart-to-heart talks, regardless of their positions. It wasn’t an initiative to encourage everyone to be more open about periods and fertility treatment. I wanted to create a better environment for employees who couldn’t discuss their worries with the people they work with. I thought that if we had a place to have frank discussions, we would less likely be left alone with our problems and be able to support each other, which would lead to a much better work environment.”

Toyoizumi asked herself what kind of problems she found difficult to discuss with people at work, and realized it was women-specific health issues. She had heard about fertility treatment from people around her and could imagine the pain and struggles involved. With some colleagues leaving the company due to changes in their environment, she felt it might be difficult for women to continue working for a long time without having anyone to confide in about their worries or problems.

“I myself had a very distressing experience when I was a medical representative. My period began unexpectedly while driving at work, and my suit got stained. But because I wasn’t at the office, I had no one nearby to share my suffering with. And while I found it okay to talk about it to women, I felt it’s not something I could tell a male colleague. I had never taken a day off work even if I felt unwell during my periods. I think I was too embarrassed to talk about my menstrual problems. Perhaps I felt that it was a taboo topic at work.”

The emphasis was on facilitating a relaxed and open discussion

A scene from “Meet Up! Overcoming diversity barriers and promoting understanding of working women (Meet Up!)”

“I proposed my idea to the company, explaining that I wanted to create a place where everyone, including the president and executives, can talk and learn about periods and fertility treatment. My idea was adopted, and with the help from the Human Resources Department and others in the secretariat, I prepared for the event and approached members to let them know about it.”

Because the whole point was to provide a place for heart-to-heart talks, on the day of Meet Up!, Toyoizumi made sure to create an atmosphere where members felt relaxed and comfortable to talk. She met separately with each participating member beforehand and discussed the background and purpose of the event. Instead of asking participants outright to talk about the topics, the event took the form of introducing members’ opinions and experiences gathered beforehand, and asked participants for their reaction. The event lasted 100 minutes. The theme for the first half was “periods” and Toyoizumi introduced cases of menstrual troubles people experienced. Toyoizumi also spoke about her experience, how she felt scared and worried when her period began unexpectedly and her clothes got stained. Her story evoked empathy from many of the female participants as it is quite a common experience among women. But some men were shocked and said it was something they had never thought about. Surveys and discussions held in preparing for the event found that not only women, but men also thought talking about periods was taboo.

“Many of them said they avoided talk about periods because they thought it would be considered sexual harassment. Women suffering from menstrual problems kept it to themselves and men hesitated to ask their female colleagues if they were okay even when they seemed unwell. We work at a pharmaceutical company, so I think we have a relatively high level of health literacy. But still, workers were finding it hard to share their feelings and thoughts with others at the workplace. I believe Meet Up provided a good opportunity for us to have frank and open talks and to know each other.”

To be a team where diverse personalities shine

Kyowa Kirin adopted “Our DE&I Statement” in 2021 on the belief that the power of a team where diverse personalities shine will be the driving force to achieve the company’s vision for 2030. Promotion of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is the foundation of what Kyowa Kirin is trying to achieve.

Commitment to Life Innovation Integrity Teamwork/Wa

In Part I, the story focused on the motivation and thoughts behind Toyoizumi’s decision to start the Meet Up program about understanding more about working women and the session of menstruation. In the 2nd Part, the story will talk about the session of fertility treatment, the response after the program and subsequent developments.

  1. i.
    Shunichiro Izumi. “From the Clinical Field of Human Reproduction - The Legacies of Evolution and Constraints of Modern Society (on the Subject of Endometriosis).” May 2013, p.104. (in Japanese).
    https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/nl2008jsce/39/149/39_96/_pdf/-char/jaOpen in new window, (accessed December 14, 2022).
  2. ii.
    Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Healthcare Industries Division. “Women’s Health Initiatives in Health Management.” March 2019, p.2
    https://www.meti.go.jp/policy/mono_info_service/healthcare/downloadfiles/josei-kenkou.pdfOpen in new window

More Kyowa Kirin "People & Culture" Stories

PRIDE MONTH Message from Jeremy Morgan, President, Kyowa Kirin International plc (EMEA region)

People & Culture | July 5, 2024PDF file

Kyowa Kirin launches the CTCL Global Care Collaborative’s Time to Act global consensus statement

Patients | May 13, 2024

Kyowa Kirin Global Corporate Planning Head Shoko Itagaki’s Message for International Women's Day

People & Culture | March 8, 2024

Kyowa Kirin celebrates Rare Disease Day 2024 across the world

Patients | February 9, 2024

Kyowa Kirin CEO Miyamoto’s New Year Message

Growth | January 9, 2024

Kyowa Kirin Chief International Business Officer Abdul Mullick’s Message on UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Sustainability | December 1, 2023

Kyowa Kirin hosted a booth for the first time at the Tokyo Rainbow Pride 2023 [Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion]

People & Culture | November 9, 2023

Our Stable Supply of High-quality Pharmaceuticals

Sustainability | September 20, 2023

Provide pharmaceuticals for unmet medical needs - A Conversation with Kyowa Kirin’s R&D Executives

Innovation | August 22, 2023PDF file

Ensure a Thriving Global Environment for Future Generations

Sustainability | July 28, 2023

“Menstruation” and “fertility treatment” felt like taboo subjects in the workplace - Why be open about issues unique to women? PartⅡ

People & Culture | June 9, 2023

How Kyowa Kirin Celebrated Rare Disease Day 2023 around The World

Patients | May 18, 2023

“Menstruation” and “fertility treatment” felt like taboo subjects in the workplace - Why be open about issues unique to women? PartⅠ

People & Culture | April 25, 2023

Kyowa Kirin CEO Miyamoto’s Message on Rare Disease Day

Patients | February 28, 2023

Promoting patient advocacy and nurturing patient-centric care: Interview with Kyowa Kirin North America

Patients | February 14, 2023

Celebrating another year of diverse initiatives around the world: RDD 2022 in EMEA

Patients | January 24, 2023

Celebrating another year of diverse initiatives around the world: RDD 2022 in North America

Patients | December 15, 2022

Celebrating another year of diverse initiatives around the world: RDD 2022 in Asia Pacific

Patients | November 21, 2022

Celebrating another year of diverse initiatives around the world: RDD 2022 in Japan

Patients | October 20, 2022

Providing high-quality pharmaceuticals to patients around the world

Sustainability | September 22, 2022

Striving to create life-changing “Only-one value” that brings smiles to patients

Innovation | July 25, 2022

Kyowa Kirin International: It's Time to Shine A Light on XLH

Patients | June 27, 2022

Kyowa Kirin CEO Miyamoto’s Message on Pride Month

People & Culture | June 9, 2022

Kyowa Kirin International Celebrates the UN’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities in EMEA

People & Culture | January 20, 2022

Kyowa Kirin International: Around the world challenge

People & Culture | December 17, 2021Open in new window

Kyowa Kirin North America: Honoring The Caregiver, Everyday Heroes, During National Family Caregivers Month

Patients | November 19, 2021

Kyowa Kirin's Effort to Realize a Sustainable Society

Sustainability | October 11, 2021

Our Financial Strategy for Creating Life-changing Value

Growth | September 9, 2021

Changes in society caused by COVID-19 and the impact on Kyowa Kirin

Growth | August 19, 2021

Bio Adventure Hands-On Experience Sessions: Become a drug discovery researcher During Your Summer Break

Sustainability | July 27, 2021


News Release | June 1, 2021

MEI Pharma and Kyowa Kirin Announce New Clinical Data on Zandelisib at American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting

News Release | May 20, 2021

White Paper on the unrecognized burden of XLH in adults in Europe

Patients | July 13, 2020

Empowering Children to Ask "Why?": Tohoku University Science Campus Hands-On Science Lessons (First Half)

People & Culture | March 5, 2020

Empowering Children to Ask "Why?": Tohoku University Science Campus Hands-On Science Lessons (Second Half)

People & Culture | March 5, 2020

“Delivering smiles with sports” Creating an inclusive society through table tennis

Sustainability | January 14, 2020

Bio Adventure*: Kyowa Kirin Invites Children to a Science Adventure

People & Culture | July 3, 2019

Return to Stories