It started off as a serious yet somewhat contained scandal. It was discovered last month that a student who had taken the entrance exams for Tokyo Medical University (東京医科大学) had had his scores bumped up so that he would gain admission. The student was the son of an official with Japan's Ministry of Education, Sports and Technology (MEXT), and an official at the school skewed the kid's scores upwards in a tit-for-tat bribery deal.
But then the school launched a thorough investigation into its admission practices - and what it found was that the bribery incident was only the tip of the iceberg. It turns out administrators at the school have, as an unwritten rule, been uniformly lowering test scores for women to limit the number who get accepted at the university. The reason? One official quoted by Yomiuri Shinbun called it a "necessary evil" (必要悪) due to the fact that women get married and/or pregnant, and resign their positions midway through their careers.
According to a source, limiting of women who passed the exam began around 2011. It started because of the regular exam in 2010, when 69 of all total female applicants (181), or 38%, passed. The majority of those who pass the national doctor's boards at the school work at the affiliated hospital. There are many emergency operations, and in the irregular work system of surgery, there's a tendency to isolate female doctors, and it's also whispered that "Three men are equal to a single man".
(JP) Link: In Medicine, a Tendency to Distance from Women - "Three Women are Equal to One Man"
As reported by Mainichi Shinbun, the backlash against the announcement has been swift and loud. Some are taking their anger to the one place Japanese know they can speak freely: online. The hash tag #私達は女性差別に起こっていい (We Can Get Mad at Sexism) is being used by women not only to denounce the discriminatory policies, but to publicize discrimination that they themselves are encountering on a daily basis. For example, the tweet below from user tsurusube_mochi, a new mom who recently returned to work, tells of an appalling conversation in her office place:
上司がドイツ人に「あなたの国は首相が女だけど、国のトップが女ってムカつかないか？」と聞いててびっくりした。そしたらドイツ人が「いやいや笑 ドイツでは男の子が”首相は女性だけど、男の子も首相になれるの？”と聞くよ」と。トップが女だとムカつくってどゆこと #私たちは女性差別に怒っていい— つるすべ_もちぷよ (@tsurusube_mochi) 2018年8月3日
I was shocked when my manager asked a German man, "The head of Germany is a woman, aren't you angry about that?" The German replieed, "No, no (laugh). In Germany boys ask, 'We have a female Prime Minister, but can boys become Prime Minister too/'" Getting mad because your leader is a woman - what the hell?
Another comment from user Shirounmo, a mother of three, that's received nearly 10K likes, reads:
女子がチビッ子相撲に出れないは危ないから、給与に差があるのは女性の能力が低いから、入れない場所があるのは女の神様が怒るから、女子受験生の点を下げるのは離職率が高いから、いつでも理由があってそれは差別ではないと言われ続けている。でもそれは差別なんだよ。#私たちは女性差別に怒っていい— 白雲母 (@plagioclace) 2018年8月3日
Girls can't go out for kids' sumo because it's dangerous, their pay is low because they're not capable, there are places they can't enter because it'll anger the gods of women, their test scores are lowered because their attrition rate is high - there's always a reason for people to keep saying, "It's no discrimination." But it's discrimination.
And, while they didn't attach the hash tag to it (I'm sure that would have been some sort of diplomatic faux pas), even the Danish Embassy in Japan got in a knock - while admitting its country's own shortcomings in other areas:
🇩🇰デンマークでは主要な医大の多くで、女性の学生数が男性を上回っています。コペンハーゲン大学の医学部では女性の割合が69%です💉他方、物理、天文、気象などの分野を学ぶ学部では男性の学生が多く、デンマークでも学問分野によっては男女の平等が実現されていないと考えられる分野があります。 pic.twitter.com/OGEb48Q5lj— 駐日デンマーク大使館 (@DanishEmbTokyo) 2018年8月7日
In Denmark, at the majority of Medical Universitys, women are surpassing men. Copenhagen University's Medical University is 69% women. In other fields such as physics, astronomy and meteorology, there are more male students, and even in Denmark there are fields where equality between men and women is not thought to have been realized.
Many women in the medical profession are greeting this news with a wary "I told you so," and are pointing out that this problem isn't specific to Tokyo Medical University. Other women chiming into the hashtag report of hearing of similar policies at other schools going as far as 10 years back. And according to a researcher cited by Mainichi, the numbers seem to reinforce that Japanese women in medicine face high hurdles: researchers into the issue note that the number of women serving as doctors sits around 20.4% - well behind the average of 39.4% in other developed countries. And this in spite of the fact that some Medical Universitys in the country are attended by at least half women. Tanebe Kyouko, head of the We!Toyama Women's Clinic, reports seeing many women in clinical trial positions, but few ever actually working with patients in critical capacities.
Tokyo Medical University now faces a disastrous fallout from this incident, including a guaranteed wave of lawsuits that could cost it dearly. But as the Japan Times' Mizuho Aoki notes (English link), the larger issue for Japan is: how will it convince Japanese women - particularly those in the medical profession - that they should work in their own country? For a nation facing a dwindling population and massive labor shortfalls across every industry, a perception that Japan is a hostile work environment for women is the last thing the country needs.
(JP) Link: Women Doctors Angry Over "Glass Ceiling"
東京医大：「ガラスの天井」女性医師たち怒る - 毎日新聞
I'm the publisher of Unseen Japan. I hold an N1 Certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and am married to a wonderful woman from Tokyo.
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