For more than a decade, several medical schools in Japan were systematically lowering women’s test scores for entrance exams, and now that they’ve stopped, women are outperforming men on those same tests, according to the Guardian.
The outcomes expose the institutional barriers that prevent women from pursuing various careers in the country, and show how misogynistic practices enforce the status quo of gender inequality.
University officials said that they had been skewing scores because of concerns that female doctors would eventually leave the profession if they ended up getting pregnant. They also worried that male students needed a handicap because their brains needed more time to develop.
After the test scandal was revealed last year, the universities ended it amid public outrage, the Guardian reports.
It’s possible that dozens of women were denied entry to the schools because of this practice. Last month, 20.4% of women passed the entry level exam at Tokyo Medical University, compared to 2.9% the previous year. Although women outperformed men this year, men scored better over the past seven years because of rigged results.
Today, just one in five doctors in Japan are women, the lowest rate among the 36 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
And when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, Japan scores abysmally across the board, according to the New York Times.
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Japan’s gender wage-gap is at 24.5%, according to the International Monetary Fund, the third worst rate among developed countries. The gender pay gap essentially means that women can expect to earn nearly a quarter less than their male colleagues simply because of their gender.
Other stats around gender in the workplace are also alarming: Women make up just 13% of managerial positions in the country. In one study by the Japan Institute for Labor Policy and Training, 30% of Japanese women said that they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. All told, Japan ranks 114 out 144 countries World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index.
These disparities are enforced by government policies or the lack thereof. Multiple bills designed to address gender inequality have stalled because of little support, according to Human Rights Watch.
A lack of political representation could be a big reason why — just 10% of the members in Japan’s lower house are women, the Times notes.
In recent years, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has launched efforts to improve female participation in the workplace, but critics say that progress has been slow to address deeply entrenched norms.
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For example, while Japan allows new parents to take up to 14 weeks off surrounding the birth of their child, just 2-3% of men take advantage of this policy, leaving the bulk of domestic and child-rearing labor to their spouses. This in turn creates a “pregnancy penalty” gap in the workplace that puts women at a severe earnings and reputational disadvantage.
When the medical school officials considered the prospect of future doctors getting pregnant, they didn’t consider how they might make the transition back into the workforce as smooth as possible.
Instead, they tried to foreclose the possibility of female doctors entirely.