‘Sharp rise’ in science gender quotas at Japanese universities

Institutions must also raise awareness and create more welcoming environment for women, experts say

三月 25, 2024
A woman poses for a picture with her hair blown upwards with the Tokyo skyline on the Shibuya Sky observation deck in Tokyo to illustrate ‘Sharp rise’ in science gender quotas at Japanese universities
Source: Behrouz MehriAFP/Getty Images

There has been a “sharp” increase in the number of Japanese universities reserving spaces for women on science courses, but greater awareness of the schemes and more support for female students once they are enrolled is required, according to the results of a survey.

In total, 40 Japanese universities now have female STEM quotas, accounting for 700 places, according to research by the Yamada Shintaro D&I Foundation, which was established by the founder of a popular e-commerce marketplace to help reduce the gender gap in Japanese science.

Researchers interviewed representatives from 24 universities and found that 16 of the institutions had introduced female quotas ahead of the upcoming academic year in April, in addition to the seven that already had them in place.

Among those trialling the policy for the first time this year is the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Four of its schools have reserved spaces at bachelor’s level, with two more set to do the same in 2025. The new quotas will make 143 places available exclusively for women, equivalent to about 14 per cent of the institution’s entire undergraduate cohort.

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The lack of women in science is a pervasive issue in Japan. In 2019, the country had the lowest share of female graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields among countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The government has been encouraging universities to enrol more women into the sector, a priority as the country’s population ages.

“Universities have made efforts to increase the number of female students by offering on-site classes to high schools and scholarship programmes, but these efforts have not yielded the expected results, which is why they are taking more aggressive action,” said Akiko Morozumi, professor of higher education at the University of Tokyo.

Of the institutions reserving spaces, almost half of those surveyed said they had received some negative feedback about the moves, including concerns about “reverse discrimination” and calls for greater transparency about the policy.

In a qualitative interview, Nagoya University representatives said there had been concerns about discouraging male applicants and worries among female students that they would be seen as securing a place only because of their gender.

Rie Kijima, director of the initiative for education policy and innovation at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, argued that it was “not enough” for university leaders to justify the quotas to the public as simply a response to government rhetoric. To garner support, they must instead “explain their rationale, the intended outcomes and the long-term impact” of the policy on institutions and society.

Of those universities surveyed, 12 had received at least enough applications to fill their quotas; seven had fewer, an outcome they attributed largely to the need to raise awareness of the scheme.

Authors of the survey report said institutions needed to raise awareness among potential candidates and also to support the women they do admit by creating a welcoming campus environment, including providing more facilities for them, such as toilets and locker rooms.

“It is important that, once admitted, female students feel welcome and can conduct research and other activities in a comfortable environment,” said Saori Osu, a policy representative from the foundation.

Dr Kijima added: “We need to address this issue from multiple dimensions: introducing policy innovations, increasing societal awareness for greater gender equality, and demonstrating strong allyship from male leaders.”




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日本在性别平等方面排名较低,日本女性长期以来一直抱怨,对她们的家务要求加上高校不愿提供帮助,使她们很难从事学术事业。但是事情开始改变了吗?林宝娜(Pola Lem)在东京报道

8月 18日