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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov.)

SPECIAL REPORT

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.4 Round-table discussion by researchers

Realizing a research environment which utilizes diversity

A round-table discussion was held by researchers at Waseda University. From their individual prospective, each researcher offered frank opinions on the ideal form of our university for achieving gender equality.

Hiroyuki Kawada
(Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering; Director of the Office for Promotion of Gender Equality)

Fusako Koshikawa
(Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences)

Tomoko Ako
(Associate Professor, Faculty of International Liberal Studies)

Chiharu Tokoro
(Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Takuma Yogo
(Associate Professor, Faculty of Human Sciences)

Reform required for both systems and awareness

Kawada (Moderator) Thank you all for participating in today's discussion. My name is Kawada, and I serve as Director of the Office for Promotion of Gender Equality. My area of expertise is mechanical engineering which deals with compound materials. Compound materials create new value by combining substances of different properties. I believe that this process is the same as gender equality. I have three children. Upon beginning my work in gender equality, I have started to help with housework and am now praised by my wife. However, she also tells me that I need to do more, and recently I wonder just how much effort I must put forth.

Koshikawa My name is Koshikawa and I work in the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences. My specialty is clinical psychology, and I conduct research in cognitive behavioral therapy and personality psychology. My daughter is currently in the 6th grade of elementary school. She is now facing junior high school entrance examinations and, as a psychologist, I am struggling with child-raising where I have to expect more than simply "cuteness" from my daughter!

Ako I am Ako from the Faculty of International Liberal Studies. Last year, I took four months of maternity leave in order to give birth to my child. My child is now 17 months old and everyday is filled with fun and fulfillment as a parent. My area of expertise is Chinese research and I engaged in long-term field work before giving birth. Now, I hope that I can continue my research while balancing my career and family.

Tokoro My name is Tokoro and I work in the Faculty of Science and Engineering. I conduct research in separation technology based on the keywords of environmental purification and resource sustainability. I have two children. My elder son is in the 2nd grade of elementary school and my younger son is 3 years old.

Yogo I'm Yogo from the Faculty of Human Sciences. I specialize in cultural anthropology and archaeology. My research field contains Japan and Bali Island in Indonesia. As with many female researchers, I married late and my daughter is still only 5 years old. My mother fell ill at almost the same time that my daughter was born, and my days are busy with child-raising and nursing care.

Kawada When viewing our university's workplace environment from the perspective of gender equality, do you feel that Waseda offers a comfortable working environment?

Yogo I feel that awareness among men varies widely depending on the individual. In the case of age groups which have already finished raising their children, most of the men entrusted all housework and child-raising duties to their wives. It seems that a dividing line exists for men somewhere in their 50s. Younger generations have developed the value of actively participating in housework and child-raising.

Kawada The awareness of each individual employee is a big part of creating a comfortable working environment, isn't it?

Koshikawa Exactly. Social support is important for reducing stress associated with child-raising. Also, in order to receive understanding from those around you, it is vital to actively discuss your own condition.

Kawada When engaging in this type of discussion, some people say that providing support for child-raising is reverse discrimination or isn't fair. However, gender equality is on a different level. What we are discussing is the fundamental need to realize a comfortable working environment for any individual, regardless of gender. From the perspective of a young instructor, do you see any changes in the environment at our university?

Tokoro In the past, meetings started from 6:00pm or were held on the weekends. However, once I honestly expressed my conflict between such meetings and child-raising, I gradually began to receive understanding.

Kawada Work in the field of science and engineering is based on results. There are many activities outside of the university and meetings tend to be held at night and on the weekends. The only option is for organizations to change their awareness based on the opinions of employees engaged in child-raising and nursing care. This change will take some time. However, even for individuals who are not busy with child-raising or nursing care, such extracurricular activities and weekend work should be avoided in order to value one's individual lifestyle.

Tokoro I think that conditions have changed a lot in the past few years. Childcare facilities have been established within our universities. In society, there are now NPOs who will care for children with illnesses. As long as you have money to pay for such services, they can be quite useful in balancing family and career.

Ako At Waseda, a meeting of Associate Deans raised the idea of greatly reducing the number of classes during the first year for instructors who are returning to work. Furthermore, returning instructors are excused from duty as a member on one committee. In the world of researchers, there is still a low degree of awareness regarding what is actually required during child-raising. Particularly mothers who are still nursing their babies, business trips and nighttime meetings are particularly difficult. Even though I am a woman, I didn't recognize such difficulties until I became a mother myself. Nowadays, social infrastructure has been developed. Since my parents' home is far away and my husband is stationed in China, I rely on family support programs offered by the government.

Working to establish systems and uncover needs

Kawada Waseda University has established a facility named the Work-Life Balance Support Center on the Nishi-Waseda Campus and has opened a consultation office. In the future, it will be necessary to establish the same kinds of facilities on all campuses. Is Tokorozawa Campus faced with different problems compared to a campus located in Shinjuku?

Yogo The Tokorozawa Campus has a relatively large number of female graduate students, research assistants and assistant professors. Perhaps this is because the campus contains the Graduate School of Human Sciences, which in turn contains the fields of education, social welfare and psychology such as clinical psychology. However, there are no facilities for supporting child-raising on the campus. Currently, this lack of support leads some women to delay childbirth. Even if needs are not apparent on the surface, they will be uncovered when facilities are established. This is clear from the examples of other universities. Change will become slow without conscious support from the university.

Koshikawa Graduate students were asked the type of support necessary in order to continue research activities throughout one's lifetime. As expected, answers showed that some women hesitated to pursue careers in research due to worries about childbirth and child-raising. Even if a university contains childcare facilities and nurseries for sick children, it is difficult to use such facilities when they are far from home. Normally, an ideal society would enable us to take days off if we have a sick child or family member. However, the existence of systems to support parents with sick children is an extremely important element when selecting one's future path.

Kawada In the field of science and engineering, such topics are not even raised.

Tokoro In the first place, in a science and engineering workplace, there is no one nearby to consult with. Since becoming a full-time employee, I have given birth to one child. However, I had no idea how to take maternity leave or what kinds of systems were available. The existence of a counseling office would really eliminate a lot of emotional stress.

Kawada I would really like to emphasize that full-time instructors face the same types of hurdles. It is even more difficult for young instructors or students in doctoral programs to express their problems. To begin with, it is necessary to break down such barriers.

Koshikawa This is a difficult problem, since Japan traditionally glorifies sacrificing one's real life in order to devote time to work. I hope that we can make fundamental changes to the values of our society.

Kawada On a different note, how would you compare progress at Waseda University when compared to advances in gender equality throughout society?

Koshikawa I think that all universities are struggling to cope with the same issues. However, I have heard that establishing nursery facilities is easy for universities that contain a medical school. It's possible to use nursery facilities established for the nurses who are valuable employees at university hospitals, and such facilities can accept sick children as well.

Ako Women can raise their children with peace of mind if they have access to a nursery for sick children.

Koshikawa When talking with graduate students, it's clear that such facilities and support really contributes to peace of mind. If the appropriate environment and systems have been established, then parents will not oppose their child's entry into graduate school.
Moreover, in terms of providing information, the aforementioned support center offers a variety of seminars on topics ranging from child-raising and nursing care to career planning and methods for obtaining research grants. Such information is useful to both expectant mothers and to people currently raising children.

Kawada Waseda has the 2nd largest number of female students of any university in Japan. For that very reason, it is necessary to actively work to enhance facilities and systems.

Diversity is born through men and women working together

Kawada Do you think that an organization is invigorated by men and women working together?

Koshikawa Without a doubt, research is invigorated by the existence of many different values. A new perspective is essential to creating new things.

Kawada In that respect, the concept of gender equality is equal to diversity. I believe that there is great significance in actively showing role models of female instructors who balance their home and career.

Koshikawa Graduate students are particularly interested in such topics. They want to know about the path to becoming a female instructor and how to balance research with childbirth and child-raising. Students want such information to serve as a reference when planning their future.

Tokoro Recently, we are also working to show role models to students at academic conferences. In addition to students, I myself am stimulated by listening to female instructors from other universities. There are few women active in the field of science and engineering, so such opportunities are very meaningful.

Kawada The website for the Faculty of Science and Engineering has a page named WASEDA Ricoh-girls which conveys messages from female students. Such conveying of information is an important method of achieving gender equality.

It is important to establish awareness at home from an early stage

Yogo So, when considering your career plan as a researcher, to what extent do you incorporate your private life? Incidentally, I didn't give it any consideration at all.

Koshikawa Me too.not a single thing went as I planned. Everything occurred unexpectedly.

Tokoro I have always wanted children and always wanted to pursue a career. So, from the time that I was a university student, I thought about how I could balance these objectives. Of course, things haven't gone as planned!

Ako Same for me as well.

Koshikawa In my time, there was an atmosphere like female researchers were prevented from getting married.

Kawada I feel I am living in a completely different age. Many different systems are available. Even so, much more still needs to be done.
By the way, getting off the topic of child-raising, what are your thoughts about nursing care for adults and the elderly?

Yogo Generally speaking, my family has a vague division of roles in which my wife handles child-raising and I give nursing care to my mother. But my wife also works, which makes things very tough. Speaking from the atmosphere in society and throughout our university, awareness and support systems for child-raising has gradually changed. However, when excluding the support offered by insurance systems, awareness towards nursing care has just reached a point where open discussion is possible. University support for nursing care is still very limited.

Koshikawa Compared to child-raising, nursing care is completely different because a forecast can't be established and the load placed on the caregiver gradually increases.

Kawada The issue of nursing care is just as important as child-raising. Aging parents is an issue which everyone has to face.
In conclusion, would everyone please discuss future issues and aspirations?

Tokoro I feel that support for women is the most urgent issue. But I also want men to support equally in child-raising.

Koshikawa When speaking with male students, it seems that their awareness changed once home economic classes began in junior high school. We should ensure that children become aware of gender equality in roles such as child-raising and housework at an earlier stage.

Kawada Long ago, it was said that "men don't belong in the kitchen." Still, children will acquire such awareness if they see both of their parents working and their father helping with housework.

Ako At university, wouldn't it be good to give male students an opportunity to listen to the experience of female instructors currently raising children?

Tokoro Instead of simply supporting their wife, I hope that men will take the initiative to raise children and do housework.

Kawada Yes, men can't simply sit around and wait for orders! In order to change men's awareness, it will be important to take action in the household from an early stage.

Yogo One issue is to convey information on university actions to a broad audience. Even though a consultation office has been opened and a variety of support has begun, information isn't reaching those who need support.

Koshikawa You're right. There isn't much recognition for such support. For example, let's take action so that informative pamphlets can be easily obtained by those in need.

Kawada Through today's discussion, I learned that everyone has a very positive attitude towards gender equality. That's very reassuring. Gender equality is defined as a priority policy within "Waseda Next 125," a mid- to long-term plan formulated by our university on the 125th anniversary of our founding. I hope that everyone will continue to work their hardest for gender equality.