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As a business strategy, and as a challenge for each of us:
Thinking about Shiseido's DE&I on International Women's Day.

March 8, 2024

Shiseido believes that people are inherently diverse, and aims to create a society where everyone can live their lives being true to themselves, free from stereotypes, prejudices, and peer pressure. As such, we have positioned Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) as a key strategic pillar of our management.

We spoke with our Chief DE&I Officer, Ayako Hirofuji, and two group managers who have transferred to Shiseido from our overseas subsidiaries, Bea Asavajaru and Angelina Puzikova, to hear about their experiences with DE&I at Shiseido.

―Firstly, why is DE&I so important to Shiseido?

Hirofuji: The key to achieving Shiseido's corporate mission, "BEAUTY INNOVATIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD," is creating innovation through the fusion of diverse knowledge. We believe that promoting DE&I is essential for generating such innovation. Our slogan "LOVE THE DIFFERENCES," which represents our DE&I activities, expresses our commitment to creating new values while respecting and empathizing with different perspectives.

Ayako Hirofuji, Chief DE&I Officer

―March 8th is International Women's Day.
How should companies work to create a society in which women can be more active?

Hirofuji: In order to foster an environment where women can thrive, companies need to take a multi-faceted approach. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this challenge. It begins with the sincere dedication of the top executives to addressing gender equality. Furthermore, it's crucial for women to proactively envision their own career paths. Companies and managers should facilitate this by providing opportunities to help women gain experience and develop their skills. Implementing HR policies that allow for diverse and flexible work arrangements, reforming work practices to move away from excessive overtime, and breaking away from Japan's traditional employment practices, such as lifetime employment, are also essential steps. Especially in Japan, where the gendered division of labor is deeply ingrained in everyday life, it is vital to break away from old customs and tackle our unconscious biases as a society.

―Please tell me about the current situation and your future vision for promoting women's active participation at Shiseido.

Hirofuji: In order to foster an environment where women can thrive, Shiseido has been proactive in implementing initiatives to support women's career growth, even before legal requirements made it necessary. With over 80% of its global workforce being female, creating a workplace where women can fully utilize their abilities is crucial for Shiseido. The company aims to achieve a 50:50 gender ratio across all levels by 2030, and as of January 2024, the percentage of female managers within the domestic Shiseido Group is at 40% (preliminary figures). Shiseido has rolled out training programs for developing female leaders and e-learning courses to eliminate unconscious bias.
Moreover, the establishment and enhancement of systems to promote women's active participation not only benefit women; they also contribute to creating an inclusive environment where individuals with diverse attributes can showcase their talents.

―Could you share with us the path your career has taken so far?

Hirofuji: I joined Shiseido after working in an investment bank, and over 15 years have passed since then. I've been involved in corporate planning, served as the president of the local overseas corporation Shiseido Cosmetics Indonesia, and most recently, I've been working on financial management and improving corporate value as the head of the Strategic Finance and IR department. I assumed the position of Executive Officer in 2024, serving as the Chief DE&I Officer and Chief Investor Engagement Officer. In my personal life, I am the mother of one child.

―What do you keep in mind when balancing work and parenting?

Hirofuji: I try not to aim for perfection at all times, and I seek out support from those around me or outsource it when necessary. Life is full of all kinds of events, and maintaining a proper balance between work and my personal life is never easy. I constantly ask myself about my priorities in life, whether I'm making the right decisions, and if I'm sacrificing anything. Especially in Japanese society, where there are high expectations placed on mothers, it's challenging to always aim for perfection, whether it's making visually appealing bento boxes or actively participating in school events. Since there's already so much pressure from society, it's important to remember that you don't have to push yourself to solve everything alone; that’s the lesson I've learned.

―What impact has being assigned overseas had on your understanding of DE&I?

Hirofuji: The things I took for granted while living and working in Japan did not necessarily apply to the local culture, and I experienced the loneliness and difficulties that come from cultural and language differences. Being away from Japan and living overseas, I experienced being a minority, which taught me the importance of creating an inclusive work environment.

―We will also hear from Bea and Angelina who are thriving as group managers at Shiseido. How do the two of you lead your teams?

Bea Asavajaru, Group Manager, Marketing & Consumer Experience Development Department, SHISEIDO Global Brand Unit

Bea: I transferred to Shiseido from Shiseido Americas Corporation in 2018, and I am currently leading the social media and PR team for the SHISEIDO brand. In Japan, I've noticed that society values harmony and consensus within the group. While there are certainly benefits to this approach, it can also be a hindrance when we desire innovation or require agility. Therefore, I make it a point to communicate that "before we are superiors and subordinates, we are teammates working together," breaking down hierarchical and formal structures to foster a sense of solidarity and camaraderie, aiming to build a team that can establish long-term trust.

My communication style is flexible; sometimes I’m assertive and decisive with my American mindset, and other times I’m softly rounding up opinions with the gentleness characteristic of my Thai roots. As a leader, I find great fulfillment in empowering my team members find their own ways of doing things.

Angelina: I transferred from Shiseido EMEA (European Area) to Shiseido in 2019, and I am currently leading a team in the Brand Value R&D Institute, focusing on sustainability strategy and implementation in the R&D area. While strongly conscious of bringing out the potential of members, I emphasize not only harmonizing with others but also the importance of taking initiative. Rather than nationality or culture, I value each individual's personality, and I make it a point that we learn from each other. I feel joy when I see the hidden talents of my members bloom and they become more active. My leadership style is similar to Bea's. Feedback is not just top-down; I also ask for feedback from my team members, which contributes to my own growth.

Angelina Puzikova, Group Manager, R&D Sustainability & Communication Department, Brand Value R&D Institute

Bea: As Ms. Hirofuji mentioned, 'not always trying to be perfect,' is important. When I fail, I openly acknowledge it to my team members and seek feedback for improvement. Failure is a part of achieving something new. If members can see that and stop being afraid to fail, I believe that is a success for the team.

―Lastly, what does 'LOVE THE DIFFERENCES' mean to all of you?

Bea: For me, 'LOVE THE DIFFERENCES' means having curiosity towards my team members, towards things that I don't understand, and also towards myself. Coming from America to Japan, living in a completely different culture and environment, and facing language barriers in my communications with team members was also a process of self-reflection for me. However, I was able to absorb quite a few new things, like a sponge, because of my deep interest in my surroundings and in myself.
Angelina: It means being humble. Not being arrogant, thinking you know everything, but being aware that there are things you don't know or understand. This also relates to the uniquely Japanese concept of humble confidence. I believe that listening carefully to what others say and observing what they do helps us to learn new things and take on challenges.
Hirofuji: It means embracing what makes you different from others and cherishing your own uniqueness.
These women who lead and promote the company's DE&I influence those around them daily and serve as a force propelling Shiseido forward to the next stage in its long history, becoming a truly inclusive company. I hope that they will continue to express themselves in their own personal ways.