A Japanese medical university has systematically discriminated against female applicants because women tend to quit as doctors after starting families, media reports said.
The Yomiuri newspaper said Tokyo Medical University has manipulated the entrance exam results of women since about 2011 to keep the female student population low.
Quoting unidentified sources, it said the manipulation started after the share of successful female applicants reached 38% of the total in 2010.
Other Japanese media, including NHK public television and Kyodo News, also reported the exam manipulation. NHK said female applicants’ scores were slashed by about 10% in some years.
The allegation surfaced during the school’s probe of a separate scandal in which its former director was accused of granting admission to the son of a top education bureaucrat in exchange for a favour.
‘Entrance exams that unfairly discriminate against women are absolutely not acceptable’
he school’s public affairs department said officials were surprised by the Yomiuri report and had no knowledge of the reported manipulation. It promised to look into the matter.
Yoshiko Maeda, head of the Japan Medical Women’s Association, said it was astonishing that women in Japan are still being stripped of their right to seek entry to the medical profession.
“Instead of worrying about women quitting jobs, they should do more to create an environment where women can keep working,” Ms Maeda said. “And we need working style reform, which is not just to prevent overwork deaths, but to create a workplace where everyone can perform to the best of their ability regardless of gender.”
In Japan, many women are college graduates but face discrimination in hiring and pay. Long working hours and lack of support in child rearing from their husbands often force them to give up their careers.
As Japan’s population ages and birth rates remain low, many workplaces including hospitals are chronically short staffed.
Earlier this year, a Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry panel urged medical institutions to allow more flexible working environments and support for female doctors so they can return to work after maternity leave and balance work and family.
While women account for more than 40% of the overall workforce, the share of female doctors who have passed the national medical exam has plateaued at around 30% for more than 20 years. The slow progress in medicine has prompted speculation among some doctors about possible widespread interference in the school admissions process.
Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters; “Entrance exams that unfairly discriminate against women are absolutely not acceptable,”he said the ministry will decide on its response after receiving the results of an investigation from the school.
Medical graduates in Japan usually end up working at school-affiliated hospitals.