This page summarises the key findings from our one-year R&D initiative on gender equality among senior faculty at the University of Tokyo, conducted in 2019-2020.
We also include links to reference materials which supported our work.
Analysing and stemming the leaky pipeline of female researchers at the University of Tokyo
LAST UPDATED: 1 AUGUST 2020
The University of Tokyo (UT) is making strong efforts to promote gender equality (GE), and strives to empower all members of its academic community. Promising efforts to support women's academic career development include the UTokyo Vision 2020 “Fostering Diversity” initiative and the UTokyo Future Society Initiative.Although the proportion of women is increasing, it remains low (19.6% of undergraduates as of 2019), and change is especially slow among faculty (18% of lecturers and assistant professors、11% of associate professors, 7.6% of full professors) [3,4].
Country-level statistics (Fig.1) show that gender equality among the teaching body is a systemic issue in Japanese universities. Even so, a comparison with other leading institutions (Fig.2) suggests there is room for improvement at UT.
Previous research has shown that cohort effects alone cannot explain the reducing ratio of female researchers along the academic hierarchy (or "leaky pipeline") at UT.[5,6]
Building on this research, our project aimed to:
(1) Understand the causes of the leaky pipeline of female researchers at our university;
(2) Develop and promote implementation of solutions to improve the situation.
Our approach consisted of three steps:
Background research on GE in Japan and abroad.
Interviews of female and male members of the UTokyo research community, from student to full-professor level.
The interviewees represented a broad cross section of academic fields at UTokyo (affiliations: engineering, medical, agriculture, public policy). A total of 8 interviews were conducted, focusing on the following two questions:
(1) What are the factors that prevent female researchers from gaining employment and promotion in academia?
(2) What can be done to improve the current situation?
The interviews included sharing of personal experiences, for example relating to child care and elderly care, as well as conflicts and obstacles for career development that resulted from this.
Feedback to executive stakeholders at UT.
Figure.1 Ratio of female teachers in tertiary education by country (source: OECD, 2020)
Figure.2 Ratio of female full professors in major Japanese universities (source: webpage of each university, 2019)
Based on our interviews, the five main causes of the leaky pipeline at UT are (in order of importance):
We presented our findings to executive stakeholders at the University of Tokyo, including the director of the UT Office for Gender Equality. The constructive feedback we received enabled us to develop proposals to improve the situation. We humbly delivered the following five recommendations, accompanied by a 10-page report on our initiative, to President Gonokami:
Find out more
We presented our work at the 10th Asian Conference on Cultural Studies (ACCS2020), in May 2020. Below is the link to the open-access proceedings:
Berthet, M., Kawataki, S., Okamura, K., Ishida, M. and Varada, K. "Understanding and Promoting Gender Diversity Among Senior Faculty at the University of Tokyo: A Student Action Project". In Proceedings of the 10th Asian Conference on Cultural Studies, ISSN 2187-4751, pp. 65-80, Tokyo, Japan, May 2020.
LAST UPDATED: 12 April 2020
UTokyo Vision 2020 (Gonokami, 2015):
- Japan's Secret Shame. BBC Two.