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09/09/2021

Women's medical issues and the workplace

Technology brings women’s health issues into focus

Men must play a role

Japan Research Institute analyst Akiko Kojima says that while it is important “for women to voice their views” to help resolve their health issues, it won’t help that much unless men pitch in by listening.

“It’s essential for men to pay attention,” she said.

Today, an increasing number of companies are introducing content, in training programs for men that in the past had only been used for women only. These companies are trying to provide opportunities for male managers and employees to learn more about women’s health. Women are generally reluctant to discuss the changes or illnesses they are experiencing with male supervisors, but such training programs “can improve the working environment by improving male supervisors’ understanding,” Kojima said. “For example, construction sites used to be dominated by male workers and have only unisex toilets. This made it difficult for women to use them,” she said. “As a result of training programs, women-only toilets started to be installed. Since male decision-makers are gaining a deeper understanding now, there are increased efforts to create working environments that take women’s physical needs into account so they are comfortable.”

As men come to know more about women’s health, they may have a better understanding of the situations women face, which could lead to improvement in the way they interact at work, as well as better measures to address women’s health issues.

Some femtech products and services are designed to provide notifications about women’s mental or physical status to men with the aim of prompting them to pay greater attention to their needs. Effective use of such products is expected to help promote men’s understanding without causing stress.

Issues specific to Japan

What are the issues that can slow efforts to introduce femtech?

Daisuke Shigemi, who supervises Kids Public’s Sanfujinka Online(OB-GYN Online), a service that provides health consultations to women, said: ”Regulations are significantly different from country to country. For example, online health care services are widely used in the United Kingdom and China, where the number of instances of online services provided reaches several tens of thousands. In particular, the U.K. has a thorough system. The government pays for equipment expenses related to online health care services for all health care facilities.”

Daisuke Shigemi, representative of Kids Public’s Sanfujinka Online (OB-GYN Online)
Daisuke Shigemi, representative of Kids Public’s Sanfujinka Online (OB-GYN Online)

“That said, different countries have different circumstances, and I think what Japan can do is to adopt a system that suits its situation,” he said. “It wouldn’t always work if Japan imitated what European countries and the United States are doing if you think of female physical characteristics, their relationships with their families or partners or the existing medical system in Japan. For example, it’s important to grasp what is worrying women, including postpartum depression, and issues specific to Japan, such as oral contraceptives that are not widely used, and prepare what is necessary.”

Shigemi said he has high hopes the government will play a supporting role in encouraging the increased use of femtech.

“It would be great if the government could point to solutions and basic policy, and outline the roles local governments and private-sector companies and entities should play,” he said.

Three-way cooperation

For working women to effectively deal with their health issues and put their abilities to maximum use, it is important for men as well to have correct knowledge of female health issues and deepen their understanding. In addition, companies must work to prepare environments that can accommodate diverse working styles. For this, it is important to find ways to get the most out of this new innovative tool.

At the same time, the government must provide appropriate support to ensure the efforts of individuals and companies can proceed smoothly. It appears the key to creating a society where each individual can ensure their own well-being is to combine the efforts of workers, companies and the government.

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