RISE in the spotlight: “RISE in Japan”

Kyoto University, Japan

Who would have thought that the numbers of female professors and women in higher management of Dutch universities would not be so far off of Japanese universities? The Japanese were very surprised with the still low numbers of female professors and women in higher management at our universities and the ongoing struggle in our emancipated country. This does however give the opportunity to learn from the initiatives started in The Netherlands, as we are only one little step ahead.

On March 1 2017, Dr. Aletta Debernardi, member of RISE, was invited to give a workshop on gender balance at Kyoto University (https://www.kura.kyoto-u.ac.jp/event/85). Kyoto was eager to learn from best practices of Dutch universities. The universities in Japan are struggling with attracting female students, with the largely male workforce at higher university positions and with women leaving research when they have children. The push from the Japanese government to get and keep more women into the labor force in the hope of increasing Japan’s growth potential, is now reaching the universities.

Aletta presented ‘Struggle for gender balance at universities; lessons from The Netherlands’. Several slides in the presentation were about bottom up initiatives like Athena’s Angels (athenasangels.nl) and RISE. Practical examples of the workshops organised for scientific staff by RISE were very well received. After the presentation, a round table discussion and a network lunch took place with challenging open discussions. One of the male managers for example said that women are not interested in management jobs such as a scientific director. But after discussing some more details it turned out that also the majority of the Japanese male scientists are not interested in or up to the job. The only difference is that female scientists feel like they do not have a choice in Japan, especially if they have children, as it is expected of them not to do this kind of work. The workshop was a success and the first steps in raising awareness were made at Kyoto University, Japan based on the examples of empowerment of women and awareness at universities in The Netherlands.

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