By Masui Nozomi
The percentage of women among researchers in Japan is the lowest among the signatories of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at 17.5%. The Tokyo Shimbun asked 203 female researchers in the sciences why they think the percentage is low. Seventy-three percent, the largest share, said it is difficult to balance work and family (household chores, child rearing, and nursing care). The survey also highlighted the reality that many scientific research jobs are unstable because they are fix-term contracts, working to the detriment of women, who are forced to suspend their research projects due to childbirth and child-rearing.
In the survey, 43% said the low percentage is attributable to the “difficulty of returning to work after raising children or caring for family members,” while 40% blamed the “societal division of labor between men and women.”
When respondents were asked to freely describe why they think the percentage is low, some cited the difficulty of balancing work and family, saying, “It’s difficult to find the next post if you give birth during the term of your present post” and “I had to give up taking childcare leave.” Many young female researchers have signed limited-contracts of two to three years.
The second largest group of respondents, or 64%, said “unconscious prejudice” is keeping the number of female researchers low. Some respondents said fewer girls aspire to become scientists because they are aware that it is widely thought that “women are not good at science and math” or “women do not need to study hard.” Others said the prevailing belief in society that “women are responsible for household chores, child-rearing, and nursing care” is preventing women from engaging in research.
The survey was conducted by email starting March 28 with a deadline of responding by April 8. The survey targeted [female] researchers in their 20s to 70s working at universities, public institutions, and companies nationwide.