Science Council of Japan intent on attenuating gender imbalance

2 May 2001 - In the face of persistently low participation by women in science, the Science Council of Japan has decided to act.

At its 132nd General Assembly on 8 June 2000, the Council officially launched a campaign to promote gender equality in science in Japan. Whereas the statement issued by the Council, 'Gender Equal Participation at the Science Council of Japan', addresses the Council’s own targets for improving gender balance, a proposal issued the same day, entitled ‘Concrete Measures for the Improvement of a Working Environment for Women Scientists’, urges the government, universities and research institutes to take steps to make scientific careers more attractive to women.

The move comes after a disappointingly slow progression in the participation by women in science over the past decade. According to a recent Report on the Survey of Research and Development published by the Statistics Bureau of Japan, women represented 7.7% of Japanese researchers in the natural and exact sciences and engineering in 1999, as compared to 5.2% 10 years earlier.

The scheme follows up paragraph 17 of the Science Agenda, which calls for initiatives to fully incorporate women scientists into scientific networks, and paragraph 90, which recommends inter alia that steps be taken to improve conditions for recruitment, retention and advancement of women in all fields of research.

Over the past nine months, the Science Council of Japan has been urging government and state institutions to raise the ratio of women in universities and research institutes, and to improve the working environment for women. Measures advocated include: an annual survey of gender ratios in each institution; a stronger childcare support system proposing, among other innovations, temporary daycare at conferences; more effective recruitment and promotion procedures; the extension of eligibility for the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research scheme to part-time researchers – most of whom are women – and; an ethical code of conduct to combat sexual harassment.

Among its own targets, the Science Council of Japan has pledged to increase the proportion of its women members to 10% by 2010. At present, just seven of the 210 Council members are women.

Source :
Science Council of Japan, for further information, contact: Dr (Ms) Hiroko Hara, Member of SCJ and Professor, University of the Air, Japan: