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Only 1 in 7 Japanese scientists are women: study

38 Comments
By Kyoko Hasegawa

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Raise your hand if at least half of the Japanese females you've come across in your life have answered the question "What do you want to do professionally," with any of the following: esthetician; airline attendant; run own cafe; make-up artist; run a bakery; homemaker; wedding consultant; or fashion designer. (My experience may be rare but I doubt it.) My point isn't that these aren't lofty goals, it's that overwhelmingly Japanese women seem to choose "girly" careers. The challenge isn't making science (or the fields of law, medicine, engineering, business, finance, etc.) more open to women; it's getting women to want to join those fields. (It won't be easy though; as this article illustrates, even societies without Japan's level of sexism are male dominated.)

14 ( +17 / -5 )

esthetician; airline attendant; run own cafe; make-up artist; run a bakery; homemaker; wedding consultant; or fashion designer.

Also day care/kindergarten teacher, or some manner of hospitality profession. There's a TON of senmongakkou for those, and they are filled to the brim with women.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My point isn't that these aren't lofty goals, it's that overwhelmingly Japanese women seem to choose "girly" careers.

With little opportunity in non-"girly" fields, it's not that surprising that most women would choose the "girly" professions.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

In my neighborhood I'm surrounded by housewives ranging from late 20's - 70's none of whom have any desire to even work outside their homes much less enslave themselves to a corporation or research laboratory. Sure, it's a small sampling, but if people don't want to enter certain professions, then they won't.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

"....to help plug a skills gap in the economy."

This is a myth. Japan has one of the world's most educated populations and well trained workforces, while the labor market is extremely tight. If there was surplus demand, wages would be rising. In fact they've been falling. Utterly illogical.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Many women want to give a try. But when they find out how hard it is, the pressure of working and of having a family, they don't want it and they retreat to their traditional role. Japan's bamboo ceiling?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I can't see why this is a problem. It is as much if a problem as lack of representation of white men in 100 meter race, where black men are almost make most of the athletes. Some people are just more interested and able in some things that others, and changing that via law, is not almost impossible, but in my opinion, wrong.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

In my neck of Japan, most women either want to be an airline hostess or work in a hostess bar.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I remember meeting this Japanese woman studying for her Masters in Chemistry. I asked her what her goal was or what type of research she was interested in... Her reply was that she wanted to get married and studying chemistry was a way to find a smart fella.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Need to solve the rather acute child care availability crisis if you want to see more women in the workforce. It's difficult for many families to have a working mother if they have young children since nobody can care for their child.

I'm in a scientific field and in my workplace there are a few (very capable) women scientists but proportionally much lower than in other countries where I've lived. In other workplaces outside Japan its been much closer to (but still less than) 50%. Everywhere, though, there are few women managers of the scientific departments...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@camiloken: Dot not confuse athletic ability with brain power. That is mixing "apples and oranges".

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I believe so few women are in science because a small number of mentors encourage women to go into science and culturally children are taught that scientist look and act a certain way. Basically you grow up in a society that labels scientists as geeky male misfits. Additionally, so much unconscious bias within the minds of both males and females towards science students exits. I think that success in the hard sciences far from being a matter of gender, is almost entirely dependent on culture that teaches math isn't cool and no one will date you if you excel in physics, a culture in which professors rarely encourage female students to continue on for advanced degrees, a culture in which success in graduate school is a matter of isolation, competition and ridiculously long hours in the lab and a culture in which female scientist are hired less frequently than men, earn less money, and are allotted fewer resources.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Should be higher.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@YogiZuna: you missed the point completely. It's not just a matter of capability but also personal interest. Also, it is certainly possible if not likely that capabilities differ among people based on demographic as well as cultural differences. It's not simply chance that explains why blacks are generally superior runners than people of other races. There is no reason to not also consider the likelihood that some excel in certain aspects of intelligence over others. Ever heard of Darwin?

I think that with regard to the sciences in Japan I do not believe that women have been encouraged to enter into these fields. Once women participate to the degree that men do it will likely be found that they generally excel over men in certain disciplines. But we will never know if they choose to apply their talents elsewhere.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

My point in saying that was that Japanese women are just as capable as Japanese men in making good scientists, as many of them are VERY intelligent and I have met some of them. The only thing keeping them down is lack of proper support to encourage them to excel. In certain athletic endeavors, body types can help tremendously in achieving success. So I still say it is "apples & oranges" to attempt to compare the two problems equally.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

@YogiZuna

By trying to imply one is better than the other, I think you are still missing the point or at least not convening your ideas effectively. Both running 100m and solving a math equation are examples of intelligences. Like all intelligences they are products of both nature and nurture. Intelligences is analogous to running a race. We are all born at certain positions on the track. Some closer to and some further away from the finish line. It doesn't necessarily determine our order in reaching the finish line. Our position plus other things like support, encouragement, role models, access and luck will determine our order in the race.

You are correct there are some very intelligent women in Japan just like there some equally if not more intelligent 100m sprinter. However, if that intelligence is not nurtured then how will we know. I think WolfPack touch on some good points on why certain intelligences are not always nurtured.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

"Only 1 in 7 Japanese scientists are women" can now read,

"Only 1 in 7 Japanese scientists minus 1, are women"

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Like others have stated, the Japanese society isn't encouraging women to enter certain professions. There was article on JT recently trying to link the decline of certain companies to the hiring of women in certain positions. Not to mention all the silly rhetoric that come out of the mouths of some of the politicians in Japan about the roles of women in Japanese society.

On the other side, women here don't necessarily make it easy for men to think any other way. I have met women with advanced education who used it to simply meet in their opinion a better quality of man. Ie. higher salary, intelligence, physical attractiveness or a certain cultural heritage. Once they got the man, they simply quit to stay at home to live the good life. In some ways their thinking is no better than the women with less educational background or aspirations.

Just like those Japanese women I see advertising for soulmates who only state "they are attractive" then go on to list a with very specific assortment of requirements like must work in finance or the embassy, must have a certain hair color, cultural heritage, and must be an exact height. I even saw an advertisement by a young Japanese woman who said she really wasn't a "looker at all CD rating" but still had such outrageously specific demands.

With that kind of thinking it can be hard to take people seriously sometimes.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@combinibento, spot on... plus a few extra jobs that @bilderberg_2015 and @bfg4987 mentioned.

@mataka, LOL. But she did say that she hopes there is room for an inexperienced scientist like herself in one of the previous JT articles... but for now. She best get back in some field and learn that copy and pasting doesn't work that well in foreign studies (and in Japan for the most part...).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Hey, they can't all be scientists when they have to cook, clean, get pregnant then take care of the kid(s), take care of the husband, still have plenty of energy for sex if the husband is up to it after his long day of work, and still be a full-time scientist."

-Japanese men.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Better than 10%?! That's an EXCELLENT average...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think Obokata looks great for a scientist! If you agree vote thumbs up!

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

combinibento:

" esthetician; airline attendant; run own cafe; make-up artist; run a bakery; homemaker; wedding consultant; or fashion designer. "

....and I bet there is a severe shortage of men who are lining up for these professions. So why are article writers not lamenting that? If imbalance is a problem and the ideal is a job market split exaclty 50/50 between the sexes, we should also address the imbalance in male estiticians. Good luck with that.

I think as usual, the complainers mistake the concept of of equal opportunity with that of equal outcome.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japan should worry about total number of scientist instead ... if all those smart girls instead stayed home having baby scientists then in just 1 generation Japan would have more scientists than any other country.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

I have a great, (and cute) 30 year old, scientist friend (MS degree). She says Japanese men don't like or feel intimidated talking to her because she is a "scientist" . We sat in a coffee shop on day in Shinjuku - explaining very simply how the Fukushima reactor worked. That is a shame because she could turn off this side and all the kids I know just love her bubbly personality. It is too bad that the male population in Japan doesn't feel smart women are attractive mates. This is part of the problem too. I've met a number of J-men say they wouldn't like a partner that has a higher education than they......That is really a shame.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Economists and commentators around the world agree that Japan’s well-educated women are a huge source of untapped potential, with many dropping out of the workforce when they have children and few returning to their careers.

Well there you go! It isn't necessarily because they are being held back by the system then, is it?!? It's personal choice.

Women shouldn't be given jobs just because they are women and the company has to fill its quota. Affirmative Action has been shown to be incredibly unfair and works against innovation.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Hahaha, if girls can't cut it; don't promote just because of gender! Right?

(Except beautiful ones. Promote them to us!)

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

@Probie

Affirmative Action has been shown to be incredibly unfair and works against innovation.

Please show links to real evidence that shows this true for ethnicity or gender related issues!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Please show links to real evidence that shows this true for ethnicity or gender related issues!

I'm not your personal Google. Just search for "negative effects of affirmative action"

For example: The NAACP told Apple their board needs more diversity. Why should a company not put the right people in the right jobs? Just sticking someone in there because you get told to put a woman or a colored person in there is stupid. ESPECIALLY when the group saying it is the NAACP! How diverse is their board? From looking at their website, I can't find a white face anywhere: http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-leadership

The problem in Japan is not as bad, but people seem to forget that when women get married they may chose to quite their job; same as when they have a baby. Yeah, some times they are told to quit by their company, but I'm guessing that most of the time (in my experience anyway) it's a personal choice not to work.

Whe whole "not enough women doing jobs like XXXXX" thing is a little short-sighted, because it makes the company the bad guy. When that isn't necessarily the case.

“The government is seeking to raise the rate of women in leadership positions to 30% by 2020—an ambitious target which some say is unfeasible—but we’ll somehow achieve it,” Abe said last month during a meeting on gender equality.

I have a feeling that "somehow" will be fines. So, some companies will get fined if they don't choose to give the right person the job because they aren't a woman.

It's asinine.

If the women are the best choice for the job, then fine. But I'm sure there will be cases where they get it to meet a quota.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

offering profiles that concentrated on her supposed feminine charms.

Nani? how they are "supposed" JT, you have disappointed me

Need to solve the rather acute child care availability crisis if you want to see more women in the workforce. It's difficult for many families to have a working mother if they have young children since nobody can care for their child.

That is so true!

Once they got the man, they simply quit to stay at home to live the good life. In some ways their thinking is no better than the women with less educational background or aspirations.

I was thinking on the same lines as you did, what a waste is to get a degree (it is not hard?) just to never work on it and only to snatch a husband...

This is part of the problem too. I've met a number of J-men say they wouldn't like a partner that has a higher education than they......That is really a shame.

It pains me that Japan society is being unfair to women, in terms that if you are born smarter than the average of your generation, the men feel intimidated, the girls get intermediately the "sticker geek", plus, if they pursue science, they are underpaid or do not have enough support to have a family, making the women to choose. From an outsider point of view if that's the fate they face, it's no wonder why we have few female scientists, if they have to choose to live up to your potential or have a husband, love and kids....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese woman just target marriage to safe their income.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

There are more men in science than women the world over. I went to a technical institute and it was 3:1 even with the business, art, and humanities schools. The trend isn't changing much. Yeah, it's worse in Japan but it's getting a bit better.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@probie

This is what you said:

Affirmative Action has been shown to be incredibly unfair and works against innovation

Simply saying google is a very weak response and shows you really don't understand it well enough to explain it.

So, I asked you to show proof that AA works against innovation. You showed no proof that supports this claim. It is true that the NAACP asked for diversity, but where did innovation become stifled because their was a demand for more diversity. Now your last post is jumping around to other things.

Where is the proof besides your own opinion?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@Silvafan

Simply saying google is a very weak response and shows you really don't understand it well enough to explain it.

I'm not going to spend my time finding the information that I read a long time ago. If you want to do it, knock yourself out.

I will give you a link to the wiki article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action_in_the_United_States#Arguments_against_affirmative_action

So, I asked you to show proof that AA works against innovation. You showed no proof that supports this claim. It is true that the NAACP asked for diversity, but where did innovation become stifled because their was a demand for more diversity. Now your last post is jumping around to other things.

If you don't understand that hiring people because they are a certain sex or color will have negative impacts in some cases, there is really no hope for you. To put it simply, AA is about what the person is, rather than what the person can do.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Probie

If you don't understand that hiring people because they are a certain sex or color will have negative impacts in some cases, there is really no hope for you. To put it simply, AA is about what the person is, rather than what the person can do.

The only thing I understand is that you don't know a enough about the topic to make such incorrect claims. Not to mention you no nothing of the research that shows the positive affects of AA for women and minorities and how they greatly out weigh the negatives of AA.

You still can't show that AA stifles innovation!

I'm not going to spend my time finding the information that I read a long time ago. If you want to do it, knock yourself out.

You keep telling me to search for something you can't prove exists. So, why do you think I can find that information?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@yogi

My point in saying that was that Japanese women are just as capable as Japanese men in making good scientists

I think you are correct that Japanese women are capable of being good scientists. The real issue is whether or not they want to be scientists. Many have made the point that it is likely that Japanese women are not encouraged or inspired to pursue science as a profession. I do not think it's a social necessity for all fields of work to be exactly or even closely balanced by sex as long as both women and men are given the opportunity to pursue their own interests. All this politically correct quota business is ridiculous.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The only thing I understand is that you don't know a enough about the topic to make such incorrect claims. Not to mention you no nothing of the research that shows the positive affects of AA for women and minorities and how they greatly out weigh the negatives of AA.

You are ignoring my point: AA is about what the person is, rather than what the person can do.

That isn't a good thing for business or innovation.

You keep telling me to search for something you can't prove exists. So, why do you think I can find that information?

Well, maybe at least trying to look for something might open your eyes to a different view to that of the PC liberal?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Probie

You are ignoring my point: AA is about what the person is, rather than what the person can do.

The problem with that statement is that your point is based on faulty logic and incorrect claims.

That isn't a good thing for business or innovation.

I have done the research which is why I know you are incorrect regarding the topic.

Show real evidence where diversity is bad for innovation. Not something "I read a long time ago but can't find it anymore."

There is no scientific evidence that shows diversity is bad for innovation. If anything the research has shown the opposite to be true.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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