History of women's participation in STEM fields in Japan

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    This paper surveys female holders of bachelor's and doctoral degrees of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and sometimes including medicine) from the modern period of the Meiji era to present day Japan. It discusses early women's education in Japan, female doctorate holders in STEM, and statistical analysis about Japanese higher education. Female university students appeared for the first time in 1913. Tohoku Imperial University matriculated three women, all of whom majored in science. The first woman who gained a doctoral degree in science appeared in 1927. A few years later, women earned various doctoral degrees, such as medicine, agriculture, and pharmacology. However, it was not until 1959 that the first female doctorate in engineering appeared. Female scientists started to appear around 1930, but a certain number of female engineers did not appear until around 1960. This year may be regarded as the beginning of the history of female researchers in all STEM to have been systematically educated in Japan. I also discuss the statistical analysis from the 1960s up until today. Almost over a half century has passed since then; however, the proportion of female students in STEM has been small. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) has been making efforts since 2006 to improve their numbers. However, these efforts have not been adequate. Lastly, considering what prevents women STEM researchers from becoming more active despite MEXT's efforts, I identify the inadequacies in the collection and historical analysis of Japanese sex-disaggregated statistical data.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-85
    Number of pages21
    JournalAsian Women
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2017 Sep 1


    • Women in STEM fields in Japan
    • Women in engineering
    • Women's higher education in STEM

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Gender Studies
    • Sociology and Political Science

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