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Female researchers have 20-50% less chance of becoming professors in Japan

  • May 11, 2017
  • , Asahi , p. 27
  • JMH Translation

By Takashi Sugimoto


Research by the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology revealed that in Japan, female researchers have a 20% to 50% less chance of getting promoted to professor than their male counterparts when they have equal qualifications. “This shows the degree to which female researchers are undervalued,” points out Ayano Fujiwara, the research fellow who led the study. “Japanese universities need to do more to empower women in academia.”


According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there are 138,400 female researchers in Japan as of March 2016, marking a record high at 15.3% among all researchers.  However, this is a low figure compared with Russia (40.3%), UK (37.4%), Italy (36.0%), and the U.S. (34.3%)


Fujiwara studied how gender and qualifications factor into promotion to a professorship based on a sample of 11,901 researchers registered in the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy’s database.


The results showed that when all factors besides gender are equal among candidates, women’s promotion rates were lower by 19.1% in the humanities, 49.6% in the sciences, and 29.0% in medicine and biology. Other than gender, there was a strong correlation between number of authored books and coauthored research papers and the promotion rate.


There were no differences in the quality of research between men and women after analyzing the number of published papers and state-sponsored grants won among the 3,094 male and female researchers who became professors. In fact, women had published more books than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, female researchers won fewer awards, made fewer presentations in academic conferences, and had less co-authorship than men.


Factors that influence promotion to professor and their weight





# of papers


0.3% increase

0.5% increase

# of books

1.2% increase

3.1% increase

2.8% increase

# of academic awards


4.1% increase

7.3% increase

Amount of grants/funds

5.0% increase

4.2% increase

8.1% increase

Being female

19.1% decrease

49.6% decrease

29.0% decrease

# of co-authorships

41.2% increase

15.6% increase

30.9% increase

*Indicates no statistical significance


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