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Japan in Depth / Japan medical community ‘discriminates against women’

The Yomiuri Shimbun

By Koji Tanaka and Ryo Fujii / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers“It is nothing more than discrimination against women.” So said the internal investigation report released Tuesday by Tokyo Medical University, criticizing the illicit manipulation of entrance exam scores to suppress the number of female students.

Why was this discrimination allowed to happen?

“We are truly sorry for increasing the disparity between men and women,” Tokyo Medical University acting president Keisuke Miyazawa said in apology, bowing deeply at a press conference on Tuesday.

For the second-stage essay portion (100 points maximum) of this year’s general entrance exam, the university multiplied the scores of all examinees by 0.8. It then gave 20 points to men taking the exam for the first, second or third time, and 10 points to men taking the exam for the fourth time.

Women received no extra points. Neither did men who had failed at least four times.

The scores of examinees from these groups were left lower. The manipulations were a closely guarded secret even within the university.

One of the senior officials of the university is said to have responded with unconcealed surprise when the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office told him about the manipulations.

The investigators had obtained a trove of materials from the university as part of their probe into a corruption case involving subsidies for private universities from the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. The university was suspected of bribery. The probe discovered the discrimination against women as it was also looking into allegations that the test results of the son of a former education ministry bureau chief had been manipulated, enabling him to pass this year’s general entrance exam.

The university was confronted with the evidence by the investigators, and it fully admitted the fraudulent manipulations after conducting an internal probe.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A page of the report on the internal investigation by Tokyo Medical University into the manipulation of test scores

Fewest female doctors in G-7

Behind the university’s efforts to suppress the number of women is surely the deep-rooted culture of male supremacy in the medical world.

The number of female doctors in Japan was about 63,000, or 20.4 percent of the about 311,000 doctors, according to 2014 data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

This contrasts with an average of 44.8 percent among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, with Britain, Germany and France all being above 40 percent. Japan ranks lowest among the Group of Seven advanced nations.

A source at the university said scores were manipulated because it was claimed that “female doctors’ rate of leaving the job is high. It’s common knowledge that if the number of women increases, there’ll be problems in the workplace. Admitting men is better for medical care in Japan.”

Female doctors in Japan do in fact leave their jobs at a high rate. Women account for 34.6 percent of doctors in their 20s, but the rate drops to 15 percent among doctors in their 50s. Women tend to work in departments such as dermatology, ophthalmology and anesthesia.

Yet this tendency could also be explained by a lack of progress in creating an environment in which women can both work and raise children.

“It’s assumed everyone, men and women, will do night shifts. It’s hard physically and can almost crush me mentally. When I was pregnant I felt something like guilt,” said a female internist who works at a university hospital in the Kanto region.

Things are different overseas. A 53-year old female surgeon who used to work in Japanese hospitals now works at a university hospital in Sweden. As the mother of 6-year-old twins, she said: “It’s assumed that I can get childcare leave. If my children get sick all of a sudden, someone can take over my surgical operation, or the operation itself can be canceled.”

‘Thoroughly investigate’

Many people in the medical field say this is only the tip of the iceberg. Across the country, women tend to have lower pass rates than men in medical school entrance exams.

According to the education ministry’s 2017 basic survey on schools, 6.6 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women who wanted to get into medical schools across the nation were admitted.

The pass rate for science faculties across Japan was about 11.6 percent for both sexes, while for engineering faculties the rate for women was 12.2 percent, more than that of men at 12 percent.

Comments on an online bulletin board for doctors indicated there is more discrimination against women in admissions.

One commenter said, “My university also suppressed the number of women.” Another wrote, “Some universities are more obvious about it.”

“The education ministry needs to make a thorough investigation of medical school admissions across the country. Any unfairness toward examinees needs to be rooted out immediately,” said Shinji Tatsumi, a professor at the Kindai University Faculty of Medicine.Speech

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