~Embodying Diversity and Inclusivity to Create Opportunities for Everyone to Flourish~
February 15, 2023
Since its foundation, Shiseido has believed that creating an environment where diverse values are respected and individual abilities are allowed to shine their brightest is essential to the company’s growth. Diversity is the source of Shiseido’s value creation, and the “Expanding Work Opportunities for Visually Impaired Persons (EWO for VIPs)” Project, now in its third year, embodies this philosophy. We interviewed Sayuri Ishikawa, the project’s founder who is herself visually impaired, and Naohiro Kurogo, the project’s systems developer, on what “EWO for VIPs” is about and what their goals for the future are.
―What led you to starting the EWO for VIPs Project?
Ishikawa: This goes back to why I decided to work for Shiseido. I am visually impaired, as are my parents. Like the majority of visually impaired people, my parents worked in the massage, acupuncture, and moxibustion industries, and they always told me that I should challenge myself to try broader fields and not just follow in their footsteps.
They believed the number of fields people like us can work in will continue to grow in the coming future thanks to technological advancements and the normalization of disabilities in society—and it’s this that formed the backbone of my ideology.
I’ve had many experiences in which my visual disabilities have prevented me from doing things that come easily to others, and I’ve of course felt uneasy at times. However, when I was a student, I had the chance to encounter Shiseido’s ideas about diversity and inclusion, and it was then I learned that Shiseido provides a work environment which enables everyone to support one other and flourish, regardless of whether or not they are disabled. Moreover, I found out people with visual impairments actually work at Shiseido, too.
I’ve always been moved by Shiseido’s efforts to actively include visually impaired people, such as their program “Shiseido Listeners’ Café,” which provides beauty information to those who are visually impaired. I believed Shiseido would be a company where I could utilize my strengths, and that led me to working here.
―What has been your career path since joining Shiseido?
It was around this time that I found out about Shiseido’s “Beauty Innovations Contest,” which is an internal competition where each office presents new, innovative ideas that can help Shiseido achieve its corporate mission. I realized this was my chance, and I proposed EWO for VIPs. Thanks to the support from people around me, I was selected as the representative for Japan in the contest and won second place on the global stage. This success became the catalyst for EWO for VIPs’ full-scale initiation in 2020.
In EWO for VIPs, we’re aiming to first transform jobs within Shiseido that are thought to be impossible for people who can’t see into jobs that are. Then, we want to convey to society that there are a variety of jobs which can be performed regardless of disabilities.
The first step in achieving these goals was to establish systems and structures that allow visually impaired people to work in the realm of correspondence marketing.
―What is “correspondence marketing”?
―What kinds of issues did you encounter when starting the project’s work itself?
After various preparations were made, the first visually impaired staff member for correspondence marketing was hired in August 2021, marking the project’s inauguration. This staff member has worked in this job over a year now and is performing wonderfully as well as meeting sales targets.
At present, we have completed hiring for the second year of the project and are in the process of fine tuning our systems while also verifying that the work processes we established are running smoothly in practice.
Finally, we are also considering presenting our trial case outside the company and sharing the successes we’ve had from the systems we built in-house.
―I imagine a lot of time and effort went into making text-to-speech possible for such an enormous amount of product information.
Kurogo: When the project began, Ms. Ishikawa consulted me about whether it would be possible to make the tools they use in marketing systems compatible with text-to-speech software. However, depending on the tool’s function, some needed text-to-speech software while others did not.
For this reason, we started by figuring out which systems and screens are used by salespeople and modified those rather than going after the system as a whole. With that said, it’s highly difficult for us systems developers to precisely understand the work of telecommunicating salesperson, and it takes more than just a day or two of working together to gain a deep understanding of all the operations involved.
So, Ms. Ishikawa’s involvement in handling work as a correspondence marketing representative played a major role. She made lists of all her work duties, including what tools are required, what screens they use, etc. And because she was the one spearheading this project, we were able to efficiently identify and organize which systems’ aspects needed to be modified. She was truly a formidable driving force that wedged open a door that had been tightly shut.
―Have you noticed any changes in your own awareness thanks to your involvement in the project?
―Finally, I would like to ask about your future endeavors.