Aiming for Greater Diversity
The Shibaura Institute of Technology promotes gender equality as part of its activity to achieve greater diversity, which is essential for its further endeavors.
This initiative has accelerated since it was adopted as a project recognized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2013. In the same year, we established the Gender Equality Promotion Office, which organizes symposiums and exchange meetings and conducts activities to support female researchers and increase the number of female students.
Diverse Viewpoints Spur Innovation - Gender Equality Initiative-
The Shibaura Institute of Technology established the Gender Equality Promotion Office in order to achieve diversity. As the gender equality initiative has been adopted as a grant project by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Institute is stepping up relevant activities starting in the academic year 2014. We asked President Masato Murakami and Hideko Kunii, the head of the Office of the Gender Equality Promotion Office (also the professor at the Graduate School of Engineering Management), about the necessity of this initiative and its evolution in the future. The below sections include their response.
Industry is Looking for Diverse Talent
Murakami: Still, there is a strong perception that engineering is a field to be studied only by men. However, for the creation of innovation, diverse viewpoints are necessary, so gender equality is essential. Inclusion of women in an organization changes the contents and quality of the meetings and research activities. Therefore, we would like to increase the number of female teachers.
Kunii: Compared to past decade, the number of female researchers has increased, but there are still few female researchers in the fields of mechanical and electrical engineering and electronics.
On the other hand, the problem for industry is that although companies are looking for female talent, recruiting is difficult due to shortage in the number of female engineering students in the first place. We would like to foster competent female engineers.
The Greatest Problem is Ignorance
Kunii: The first thing to do in order to promote gender equality is enlightenment activity. The greatest problem is ignorance regarding the current situation. In terms of the Global Gender Gap Index calculated by the World Economic Forum, Japan ranks 105th among the 136 countries. The data published at global standards, shows the real situation of Japan that does not seem to be normal.
Murakami: There is often misunderstanding concerning the career paths pursued by the women, namely what future lies ahead for a woman who studies science and engineering. Parents and high school teachers apparently have a misconception that such women cannot find a job. But the reality is the opposite, as industry is looking for women from such background. Regarding the job placement rate as well, at the Shibaura Institute of Technology, the rate is higher for female students than for men. I would like to raise awareness about the facts like gender disparity that will in turn ensure equality.
Creating an Environment that Empowers Women
Kunii: We are now conducting an initiative to assist research activities by child-caring teachers by providing female graduate school students as supporters. This is also beneficial for the female students as provision of such research support will instill in them a perception that in the future, they will be able to continue research while caring for children. In addition, I would like to eliminate concerns and give reassurances to the female high school students and their families about the importance of studying science and engineering by providing them information through open campus and other events. We will also make efforts to build a network of female graduates.
Murakami: We would like to actively admit female students and employ female teachers. It is important to create an environment that empowers female students and teachers and to demonstrate that to the outer world.
Kunii: The needs of society changes from day to day. To create innovation, it is necessary to fuse various fields and viewpoints. Our gender equality initiative aims not only to create a comfortable working environment by supporting the work-life balance but also to improve the quality of education and research capabilities by increasing female researchers. I believe this precisely embodies our founding philosophy, "Learn from society and contribute to society."