Table Speech


Innovation Generated by Women’s Perspective

August 7, 2019

PhD. Kimiko Murofushi
President, Ochanomizu University


 If we look at the ratio of female researchers in Japan in universities, research institutions and enterprises, it is far less compared with other developed countries. In the UK, USA, Portugal and Chile, it is over 30%. However, it is only 15.3 % in Japan, less than 18.9 % in South Korea.

 The Japanese government has set the numerical target of increasing the ratio of female researchers to 30 % by 2020 and also the ratio of female researchers in leading positions to 30%. Nevertheless, the former remains 16.2% while the latter is as low as 14% and we still have a long way to achieve these targets.

 The ratio of female graduates and teachers in national universities in Japan are 37% for undergraduates, 26.7% for Master Courses, 28.9% for Doctorate Courses and 16% for teachers. If we look at the breakdown of teachers’ job category, females account for 27.9% of assistant professors, 22.6% of associate professors and 14.4% of professors. Going up the career ladder, the ratio of females declines. The ratio of female Presidents of universities is 9.1 %, but strangely the ratio of Vice Presidents remains lower at 8.5 %. In order to change the society, the ratio of females in higher positions who has more influence need to be increased.

 The ratio of female teachers by different research domains is 28.3 % for humanities, 16.8 % for social science, 9.0% for natural science and only 4.7 % for engineering. The major cause of shortage of females in the domain of science and technology is the outdated mentality of the division of roles that prevails among family members and school teachers. Girls educated under such circumstances gradually come to harbor unconscious bias that women are not good at science and technology.

 For female researchers and teachers, the prime of their career life overlaps with marriage, child birth, child rearing and also nursing care. They often quit unwillingly, and their reinstatement is not easy. As a result, there are not enough role models for female students to keep them motivated. In order to sweep away stereo type preconception that men would take higher positions in society, role models play an important role. Our University established the “Joint Organization of Science Education for Female Students” which is now unfolding nationwide.

 In our University the ratio of female teachers in natural science is 38.0% versus 9.7 % of national average and that of engineering is 37.5 % versus 4.7 % of national average. I would like to share some of our initiatives to support active engagement of women in the society. In order to support students and young researchers, Izumi Nursery was founded in 2002 as the first nursery set up within national universities not affiliated with hospital. If students use this nursery, 50 % of the fee is subsidized by the University. There are some researchers who worked in our University while raising children, achieved a remarkable result and became professors of other universities.

 We also set up a system to assist researchers whose researches were interrupted by child birth and child raising etc. to come back and continue research. During the past 5 years, 35 researchers used this system and more than half of them obtained the tenure post in national or private universities.

 Now, let’s look at the private sector by comparing the figures of 1989 and 2017 compiled in the “Basic Statistical Research on Wage Structure” issued by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare: female sub-section chief increased from 4.6 % to 18.4 %, section chief from 2.0 % to 10.9 % and department chief (director) from 1.3 % to 6.3 %. Although there is an overall increase, I must say a lot more remains to be done.

 The ratio of female entrepreneurs is hovering around 30~40 %. I would like to ask your encouragement and support for women trying to create new jobs. There is evidence that engagement of women in research and development will generate more economic value. If we compare the economic value of patents engaged only by men and those engaged by both men and women, the latter shows higher value in almost all industries. 220 % of rubber and 160% of textile industries are noteworthy.

 Let me show you two examples that women’s perspective is indispensable. One is seat belts for pregnant women and patients of breast cancer. As current seat belts are designed based upon body structure of men, they have the risk to cause intrauterine fetal death in cases of accident and patients of breast cancer are forced to endure pain. The second example is design of furniture that takes into account the size and posture of women as well as home appliances that reflects the daily pattern of women.

 Women’s perspective is also important in medical and nursing area. The majority of care-givers and care-recipients are women, so women-friendly technology is required. Various tools and equipment have been developed lately, but they are not necessarily women-friendly. As medical check-ups, diagnosis and treatment so far are based upon men’s physique, leaving extensive room for research focusing on women. As for the development of AI, gender bias must be prevented by collecting and utilizing more data based upon women’s perspective.

 In our University both young and experienced researchers engage in research and development in order to realize innovation based upon women’s perspective, to which your generous support will be much appreciated.