May 29, 2024

Why are there so few women doctors in Japan? Now we know

Tokyo Medical University systematically marked women down in entrance exams

More deep bows of apology and expressions of profound regret in Japan – this time at Tokyo Medical University, where officials have admitted that they had been systematically altering the test scores of women applicants to favour men. An internal investigation has revealed that TMU administrators lowered the scores of all female applicants because they feared that they would leave the profession when they had children.

The investigation was originally opened after a government official offered a TMU academic preferential treatment for a research grant in return for his son’s admission. It turns out that TMU also raised the scores of other applicants in order to secure donations from their parents.

Many doctors had suspected that such shenanigans were responsible for the low ratio of women entering medicine. The ratio of women who pass the national medical exam has remained at around 30% for nearly 20 years. The scandal at TMU has strengthened the suspicions that other medical schools are discriminating unfairly against women.

“If you go abroad, 50% of doctors are women, and there are many female professors (at medical schools),” Kyoko Tanebe, an obstetrician, told the Japan Times. “That always made me question the state of Japan, where we rarely see a woman in the professor’s seat.”

“Instead of worrying about women quitting jobs, they should do more to create an environment where women can keep working,” Yoshiko Maeda, the head of the Japan Medical Women’s Association, wrote on the Association’s Facebook page. “And we need working-style reform, which is not just to prevent overwork deaths but to create a workplace where everyone can perform to the best of their ability regardless of gender.”

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