Last week the Japanese media reported that a Tokyo medical school had for years been lowering the scores of female applicants in order to keep the ratio of women in the school at 30% or lower.
The university admitted that the entrance test scores for female applicants were routinely altered to keep women out and apologized for the discrimination after a probe.
Initial reports suggested the practice dated to 2011, but a probe conducted after the reports found the alterations started as early as 2006, according to Kyodo News.
The scandal was uncovered by investigators looking into claims the university boosted the scores of an education ministry bureaucrat’s son to help him gain admission, and local media said other instances had been discovered where individual entrance test scores were revised upwards, suggesting favouritism.
But female applicant test scores meanwhile were lowered across the board.
The manipulation was “nothing but discrimination against women,” said one of the lawyers hired by the university to investigate the alterations.
Sources told local media the discrimination was the result of a view that women would not be reliable doctors after graduation.
“Women often quit after graduating and becoming a doctor, when they get married and have a child,” one source told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.
Discrimination against women
AFP reports that in 2018, the ratio of women accepted to the medical school after the first round of tests was 14.5%, compared with 18.9% for men.
In the second and final test stage, just 2.9% of female applicants were admitted, compared with 8.8% of male applicants.
The story has caused outrage in Japan, with women’s empowerment minister Seiko Noda calling the practice “disturbing”.
“It’s extremely disturbing if the university didn’t let women pass the exams because they think it’s hard to work with female doctors,” she says.
Japanese women are highly educated in general but the country’s notoriously long work hours force many out of the workplace when they start families.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made “womenomics” — or boosting women’s participation in the workplace and promoting women to senior positions — a priority, but the pace of progress has been slow.