Japanese social media lit up this week with backlash to a report accusing one of its top medical universities of gender discrimination. According to allegations, Tokyo Medical University tampered with female applicants' exam scores in order to accept fewer women into its programs.
UPDATE: On Aug. 7, Tokyo Medical University released a report acknowledging "serious discriminatory factors against women," including tampering test scores since 2006, according to Bloomberg. Tetsuo Yukioka, the university's managing director, expressed the "greatest regret" and said he "was shocked when I heard about it."
EARLIER: The scandal began when Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun published the allegations this month after looking into the university's admissions statistics. The paper claimed that the school started changing women's exam scores in 2011 to accept a body of students that would be under 30 percent female. The university had not denied the report as of this writing and said that it will investigate the claims. Bustle reached out to Tokyo Medical University for comment.
According to Yomiuri Shimbun, admissions workers began a "silent understanding" policy in 2011 that the school should work to admit fewer women. They were reportedly motivated by a conviction that female graduates weren't taking advantage of the degree as much as male graduates because some women didn't go on to join the medical field.
"Many female students who graduate end up leaving the actual medical practice to give birth and raise children," an anonymous source told Yomiuri Shimbun, according to the BBC.
Japanese women face significant challenges in the medical profession that make it difficult for them to continue practicing, according to a 2015 article published in the journal BMJ Open. The report found that female doctors with children had to sacrifice some of their mothering duties because of extremely long workdays and a scarcity of childcare facilities on the job.
The report found that "some women appeared to have low confidence in balancing the physician's job and personal life, resulting in low levels of professional pursuit." It also noted that two stereotypically gendered notions about motherhood were impacting women's perceptions of being doctors: First, that it was their "job" to be mothers, and second, that they wanted to personally take on the child-rearing duties. A 2017 survey from the Japan Medical Association found that 20 percent fewer women took maternity leave after giving birth in the medical field than women in private professions.
The issue of taking time off for family is also prevalent in the U.S. medical field. Dr. Kim Templeton, former president of the American Medical Women's Association and a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center, tells Bustle that women "feel the need to figure out a way to take time off of their practice to take care of family, and fulfill all of the other obligations society thinks that you should still be fulfilling as a woman, even though you have a professional life that takes up more than the standard 40 hours a week." But, Dr. Templeton adds, "Taking time off for that is also not built into the system."
According to the BBC, the student body at Tokyo Medical University was around 40 percent female in 2010, before the "silent understanding" was allegedly adopted. But this year, only 30 of the school's 171 accepted applicants were women, according to Yomiuri Shimbun, which is about 17.5 percent.
The allegations are particularly notable given how Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been championing the participation of women in the workforce. Analysts have dubbed this aspect of his broader "Abenomics" economic agenda "womenomics." Last year, Japan ranked 114th on the Global Gender Gap Report in terms of economic participation and opportunity.
"It feels as if the earth's crumbling under my feet," wrote one person on Japanese social media, according to Reuters. "Who are you kidding with 'Women should play an active role'?"
Another person wrote, "Women are told they have to give birth; if they don't, they’re mocked as being 'unproductive', but then again, just the possibility that they might give birth is used to cut their scores. What's a woman supposed to do?"
"I can’t forgive [what the institution is said to have] done to people who studied hard to get into the university, hoping to become doctors," the leader of a Tokyo women's clinic told The Japan Times. "It shouldn't happen in a democratic country that is supposed to provide equal educational opportunities."