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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov.)


Creating new knowledge by realizing gender equality in society

A society with gender equality offers opportunities for equal participation in all fields of society regardless of gender. It also assigns shared responsibility to both men and women. Universities play an important role in achieving a society with equal participation from both men and women. For example, universities must enhance the work-life balance of faculty and staff, support young researches, and produce students who recognize the importance of gender equality in society.
In addition to examining action being taken at Waseda University, we will explore the significance of roles expected of universities.

Chapter.1 Discussion

Gender equality at universities

A discussion regarding the current status of gender equality and related themes at Waseda University was held by President Kaoru Kamata and Professor Mutsuko Asakura, the first director of the Office for Promotion of Gender Equality, Waseda University.

Ensuring diversity

President Kaoru Kamata (Professor, Faculty of Law)

Asakura Ensuring equal participation from both men and women is a vital theme of the 21st century. In order for society to grow, it is important to create our future based on debate by individuals who possess a variety of experience. At universities, a variety of experiences and ideas are held by students, faculty and staff. It is necessary for such individuals to address current issues through new ways of thinking.

Kamata When looking back through history, Waseda University founder Shigenobu Okuma thought that half of a country's capability is wasted when only men participate in society. Okuma actively worked to assist women's entry into society. For example, he served as the founding chairperson for Japan Women's University. Okuma's spirit of equality has been inherited by our university. In 1921, Waseda accepted 12 female students into a class auditing system. In 1939, 4 female students were accepted as full-time students.

Asakura That's true. However, from an overall perspective, Japanese universities haven't worked actively for the cultivation of female students. That attitude started to change in 1985 with ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Then, the Basic Act for Gender-Equal Society was enacted in 1999 and the Gender Equality Bureau was established within the Cabinet Office in 2001. It was around this period that active efforts for gender equality began in academic fields.

Kamata Universities are one of the units which compose society. Therefore, when seeking gender equality throughout society as a whole, universities have a responsibility to promote such equality. Furthermore, as part of Waseda's efforts to become a global university, it is essential that we conform to global standards in the area of personnel utilization. Moreover, increasing the ratio of female faculty and staff is important to provide diverse role models for female students.

Asakura Universities will be invigorated through such diversification of personnel.

Kamata I believe that diversity is the defining feature of Waseda University. Students from a variety of backgrounds are free to develop their talents through mutual exchange with faculty and staff who value individuality. However, when examining the male-female ratio at our university, the ratio of female students is still only about 35%, with only about 23% of faculty and staff positions held by women.

*Ratio of female faculty and staff: Ratio of women in all faculty/staff positions, including part-time and term employment (however, excludes temporary staff)

Asakura The Cabinet Office has given three reasons why Japan has so few female scientists when compared to other countries. The first reason is the issue of balancing childbirth, child-raising and research activities. The second reason is the mistaken idea that scientific fields are not a good fit for women. The final reason is the form of personnel when hiring researchers.

Kamata In many cases, there is an overlap between the period that research results are produced and the period of childbirth and child-raising. The problem is that almost all household work associated with child-raising is thrust upon women. In the future, we will create an environment which better matches the needs of female researchers who seek to continue professional activities while also minding their households. One example is the development of childcare facilities. Additionally, we will give consideration to the issue of nursing care for the elderly.

Professor Mutsuko Asakura, Faculty of Law (first Director of the Office for Promotion of Gender Equality)

Asakura Regarding the form of personnel, I hope to receive increased understanding towards the spread of positive action (actions to eliminate disparities between men and women). Positive orientation has many different orientations. One form of positive action would be for Waseda to advertise the existence of a university gender equality program when hiring new faculty and staff. For this purpose, we must have diligent efforts to create a professional environment with work-life balance and to eliminate factors which make a research career difficult for women. I hope that Waseda will start to convey information regarding university support for professional women.

Kamata Recent actions by Waseda include application in 2006 for the MEXT's "Program to Cultivate a Support Model for Female Researchers." Through our "Gender Equality Plan for Cultivation of Researchers," we were the first private university selected for the program. In 2007, the 125th anniversary of Waseda's founding, we announced our "Declaration of Gender Equality" and established the Office for Promotion of Gender Equality. Professor Asakura, you are currently serving as the office's first director and leading efforts to fulfill the declaration.

Asakura Professor Kamata, when you became university president in 2010, you added the theme of gender equality to our Waseda's manifest. I hope you will continue to take such actions in the future.

Kamata When I was appointed as president, I appointed Professor Miho Saito as the first female member of our university's executive board. Currently, Professor Saito is in charge of gender-equality programs. In the future, we will develop further systems for more active promotion of gender equality.

Fulfilling our role as an educational institution

Asakura Recently, there is an increase in students enrolled at university while raising children. In response to such needs, the Work-Life Balance Support Center was established on Nishi-Waseda Campus, which is also home to the Faculty of Science and Engineering. The center provides consultation and holds mixers and seminars. Other forms of systematic support are gradually being developed. Faculty and staff play an important role in such development.

Kamata That's right. A major theme at our university is increasing the ratio of women among faculty who provide support for students and other faculty. Another priority area is increasing awareness of gender equality among faculty. Unfortunately, the ration of full-time female employees at our university decreased between 2000 and 2010. Waseda realizes that it is important to develop a workplace environment which fits the needs of female faculty and staff.

Asakura Reforms are necessary regarding the extremely small ratio of female managers among staff.

Kamata Our university still possesses an atmosphere in which staff is expected to spend all of their time in the workplace. This is one reason why hiring of female managers and researchers hasn't increased. In my opinion, even men must get away from such a work-only lifestyle in the future.

Asakura What you say makes a lot of sense. In order to realize gender equality, it is important to establish a research environment and a workplace environment which makes no distinction between men and women. Nowadays, many men participate actively in child-raising.

Kamata Universities are both research institutions and educational institutions at the same time. In the future, it is an important role of our university to convey the inherent meaning of gender equality to students and to produce professionals who will embody such equality in society. Also, I hope to focus on actions which give students, regardless of gender, the desire to perform as an individual in society in the future.

History of female students at Waseda University

Before WWII, our university was active in higher education for women. Our founder Shigenobu Okuma showed deep understanding regarding the issue of higher education for women.①

However, university education was closed to women in Japan before WWII. Although the first female student entered at the Tohoku Imperial University College of Science in 1913, this was the only case of female enrollment. Beginning from 1918, many universities allowed the enrollment of women as students auditing classes. Acting on an equal-opportunity perspective based on recognition for gender equality, Waseda planned to open enrollment to female undergraduate students in 1920. However, Waseda abandoned this plan at the request of the Ministry of Education. Instead, our university was limited to accepting woman as auditing students from 1921.②

In 1938, President Hozumi Tanaka of Waseda University insisted on promoting university education for women. Under his strong leadership, university regulations were revised and our university's first 4 female undergraduate students were finally accepted in 1939. Our university was the about the 10th Japanese university to be opened to women. At that time, 30% of university accepted enrollment by female students and female students composed 0.3% of the total student population. ③

After WWII, the advent of a democratic society resulted in increased expectations for women, including improvement of social status and granting of voting rights. From 1946, Waseda University permitted the enrollment of women to the former School of Instructors in Higher Education. From 1949, similar to other universities, Waseda was opened as a mixed-gender school based on certification of gender equality. Since then, the number of female students studying at Waseda University has continued to increase, with 349 in 1950, 3,960 in 1970 and 18,690 today (as of May 1st, 2011).④⑤

①Shigenobu Okuma delivers a speech entitled "New Age of Education for Women" (during the 1910s)
From the collection of the Waseda University Archives

②Reporting auditing of classes by women-Waseda University Newspaper
Dated May 8th, 1935

③Reporting revision of university regulations to permit the enrollment of female students-Waseda University Newspaper
March 1939 issue

④Female students after WWII
―Commemorative photograph of graduates from the School of Letters, Department of Japanese Literature―
September 1946
From the collection of the Waseda University Archives

⑤Scene of current campus life

Reference: "The History of Women at Waseda" -speech and photographic exhibition held in 2009
●Materials from speech by Professor Tsugiyoshi Yukawa (Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences)
"Opening of University Education to Women: Waseda University"
●Material from photographic exhibition