The Rigakubu News

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Gender Equality Proposal Based on Shared Purpose and Data

Makiko Sasada (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Mathematical Sciences)

In October 2019, I published a report titled "Current Status and Proposals for Gender Equality in Japanese Mathematics" ( ) together with Professor Kenichi Bannai of Keio University. This report, together with its English version ( ), has so far received an unexpectedly positive response from people involved in mathematics in Japan and abroad, as well as from people outside the field of mathematics.

The impetus for the above report came from an exhibition of photographs and interviews of European and Japanese female mathematicians held at the Delegation of the European Union to Japan. In conjunction with the opening ceremony of the exhibition, I thought I would introduce the percentage of female researchers in mathematics in Japan as a small reference.

In the process of steadily collecting data, including excerpts from the Basic School Survey by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and inquiries about the situation at various universities, a harsh reality became clear. Over the past 30 years, the percentage of women who have completed a master's or doctoral degree in mathematics has remained almost unchanged, and in the past 10 years, it has been on a slight downward trend. This is a shocking result, considering that various efforts for "gender equality" have been made at various universities and by the Mathematical Society of Japan. The percentage of women who have completed doctoral degrees in all fields and in science as a whole has doubled in the past 30 years or so. (Figure).

In thinking about how to understand this data, I collected data on the percentage of women among faculty members and conference speakers/award winners at the 10 national universities, and also reflected on my own experience and that of other women researchers around me, and came up with a number of thoughts. These thoughts are condensed in the "Introduction" section of the above report.

In the process of preparing this report, what I felt most different between Japan and other countries is that in countries where the percentage of female researchers has increased significantly, the "purpose of gender equality" is clearly defined and the process to achieve it is scientific and based on data (not only statistical data, but also questionnaires on feelings and experiences). The "Purpose of Gender Equality" is to be clearly stated. It is a common understanding that the "purpose of gender equality" is to create "an environment where each and every individual is equally respected as an individual, is evaluated and expected regardless of his or her attributes, and can engage in study and research with peace of mind," as clearly stated in the declarations of academic societies and research institutions in other countries. Such an environment is important for all researchers as it directly leads to a healthy and active research community, and data shows that the percentage of female researchers increases as a result of its realization.

In order to create an environment in which everyone can feel comfortable expressing various opinions, it is essential to eliminate unnatural gender bias in the research community. However, such an environment will not automatically be realized if the number of female researchers increases, and it is necessary to carefully monitor the actual situation in each field to ensure that the original "objective" is not undermined, such as by increasing the headwind or pressure on female researchers.

The scientific process of "gender equality," in which the purpose = goal is first shared, concrete methods of realization are verified by collecting various data, and effective methods are shared across disciplines and universities for further improvement, is very suitable for researchers, don't you think?


Published in Faculty of Science News, March 2022


From the Student Support Office for Gender Equality