Akiyo Takamoto started her professional journey with Seven & I Holdings and Tejin Ltd, after which she pursued an MBA in the US. Eventually moving on to the startup world with two healthcare startup businesses, she progressed onto Uni’que inc, where she met Kazuo Wakamiya. This pushed her to start her own business, Wakarimi, centred around menopausal women and providing them with healthcare advice.
Note to Ally: To Hiromi Okuda: Without you, I would not be here. If I improve society, it will be more of a thank you note to you, I think. Please stay as you always do. | To Kazuo Wakamiya: Thank you for always encouraging me. Without meeting you, my service would not exist. Let’s continue to carry out trials and actions, and find better solutions.
With age comes many challenges. Menopause brings an onslaught of physical and mental symptoms, which affects women’s private and professional lives. Globally, there is a lack of workplace support for menopausal women, and it’s an aspect that deserves much more attention. Menopausal women often find it difficult to adjust to this phase in their life, be it at home or at work. Akiyo Takamoto has set out to rectify this with wakarimi.
Wakarimi is an online application-service that allows menopausal women to check their physical condition and receive individualized consultation using the communication platform, LINE. LINE is Japan’s most popular online communication tool with over 84 million Japanese users on the messaging application. When I asked Akiyo about how Wakarimi came about, it was her past work experience and her encounters with her allies that have shaped her journey.
“Without my allies, I would not be here. I met Ms. Hiromi Okuda, the CEO of Wiz. Group Inc., in 2017 when she was the speaker at the Japan Cabinet Office event I was attending.” Later, Hiromi invited Akiyo to a Global Leadership Program in Silicon Valley in 2018. With a one-year-old daughter and a busy husband, Akiyo was hesitant to take up the opportunity but after discussions with her husband, she eventually seized the opportunity to meet many entrepreneurs. “Without her,” Akiyo clarifies, “I would not have been chosen as a challenger of 500 Kobe in 2018.”
She takes the moment to thank Kazuo Wakamiya, too. “He is my business partner and the CEO of Uni’que Inc. He set up an incubator for women entrepreneurs, and gave provincial women a chance at their own businesses, even those with young children. He is a pioneer in the Japan startup world for this, since Japan is still predominantly a patriarchal society.” Kazuo is the one who encouraged Akiyo to be unafraid of failure, and that motivation has driven her to this day.
It’s important for both men and women to drive progress and equality where there are gendered gaps, she affirmed.
Akiyo’s journey with Wakarimi has made her a leading presence when it comes to adapting workplaces for menopausal women. She has spoken at Deloitte Tohmatsu regarding menopause symptoms and future action for sustainable teamwork. Akiyo explains, “All team members should know what happens to women when they work while menopausal. Mutual understanding is the key to psychological safety. Menopausal symptoms are not an individual’s problem, but a social responsibility. Without adapting to these changes in women, it’s hard to accomplish women’s empowerment.”
Akiyo’s goals, both with Wakarimi and her personal life, are simple: to create a society where women don’t suffer through their pain alone. All her clients keep their discomfort to themselves. If women’s pains were talked about more often, it would be much more beneficial for women’s health. She looks forward to a society that encourages and soothes women.
There is much work to be done, though. Male-dominated societal practices and misogynistic thoughts are still rampant. I asked her what she thought regarding the recent comments made by Yoshiro Mori — the president of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games — about how “women talk too much”. She was clear in stating that Japan has some ways to go when it comes to the gender gap and equality. “Old politicians typically used to think active discussion was wrong. However, success lies in active discussion which promotes the psychological safety of all parties.”
Going forward, adapting work practices to menopausal women would increasingly benefit not just women, but the success of companies as well. Understanding the medical health of menopausal women and adjusting workplace support to said health requirements would be a great help. Akiyo also specifically highlights flexible working arrangements to aid women who are usually in-charge of taking care of both family and professional duties. “The current style of working from the office fits men because it was created by them. COVID-19 gave me many opportunities to meet entrepreneurs, companies, and governors all over Japan with the working arrangements that we adjust to. I would highly recommend flexible working arrangements so that women can flourish too.”