Do smart women not get married Japan works quickly to eliminate the stigma against women in science

Yuna Kato, a third-year student at one of Japan’s top engineering institutions, wants to pursue a career in research but worries that it won’t last if she has kids.
According to Kato, her relatives have tried to discourage her from pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), claiming that such women struggle to find husbands because they are too preoccupied with their jobs to balance dating and raising kids.

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If I want to have children, there are non-STEM careers out there, my grandma and mother frequently tell me, she added.

Although Kato has progressed this far, the societal stigma causes many would-be female engineers to choose a different path, which is a huge problem for Japan. By 2030, the nation will face a shortage of 790,000 professionals in the IT sector alone, partly because women are significantly underrepresented in the workforce.

The result, according to analysts, is a decline in creativity, productivity, and competitiveness for a nation that grew into the third-largest economy in the world over the course of the last century on the strength of those strengths.

“It’s very wasteful and a loss for the nation,” said Yinuo Li, a Chinese schoolteacher and PhD molecular biologist whose image was utilized for a Barbie doll as a role model for women in STEM.

The mother-of-three, who is in Japan as part of a cultural exchange program, said: “If you don’t have the gender balance, your technology is going to have a significant blind spot and deficiencies.”

AWARENESS OF BIAS

With only 16% of female university students majoring in engineering, manufacturing, or construction, and with only one female scientist for every 7 people, Japan comes in last among developed nations. In spite of this, according to the OECD, Japanese females ranked third in science and second in math.

Japan’s score for overall gender parity dropped to a record low this year.

The nation is trying to narrow the disparity.

About a dozen universities, including Kato’s Tokyo Institute of Technology, will heed the government’s proposal to adopt a quota for female STEM students starting in the academic year beginning in 2024, joining several others that started this year.

For a nation where an inquiry in 2018 revealed a Tokyo medical school had purposefully decreased women’s entrance exam results to favor admitting men, this represents a significant U-turn. Officials from the school believed that women would waste their degree by quitting their jobs after having children.

The government recently produced a 9-1/2 minute movie to demonstrate schools and other adults how “unconscious bias” discourages females from pursuing STEM studies in an effort to shift perceptions.

In one scene, a student is complimented by an actor imitating a teacher for “being good at math, even though you’re a girl,” which makes her feel odd for being a female math prodigy. In another, a mother advises against her daughter going into engineering since “the field is male-dominated”.

Working with the private sector, the government’s Gender Equality Bureau will hold more than 100 STEM workshops and events mainly targeting female students this summer – such as learning from Mazda’s sports car engineers.

Diversity fosters innovation.

To draw talent, more universities and businesses, like Toyota and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, are awarding scholarships to female STEM students.

Given that women make up half of society, the lack of female engineers is wholly unnatural, according to Mitsubishi Heavy human resources executive Minoru Taniura.

“We would lag behind in being able to provide what customers are looking for if the makeup of engineers is not the same as the population.”

Panasonic (OTC:PCRFY), too, sees benefits from a female perspective, saying its senior engineer Kyoko Ida could relate to women surveyed for the development of the company’s bread machine, whose users were mostly female.

The absence of diversity, according to Jun-ichi Imura, the deputy head of Kato’s school, has already had an impact.

“Diversity is the source of innovation, and when we think about whether we’ve seen true innovation in the last few decades at our school or in Japan, it doesn’t look good,” he said.

“We all need to consider what needs to be done now as we look ahead to 2050.”