Women Scientist in Japan


Japan’s scientists: Just 14% female
Lowest rate among developed nations is a loss for the economy

Just one-seventh of scientists in Japan are female-the lowest rate of any developed nation-despite being a record high for the country, government figures show.
The survey comes amid a high profile case that has pitted Haruko Obokata, a young female researcher, against the scientific establishment and repeated calls to boost female participation in the workforce to help plug skills gap in the economy. “Compared with 10 years ago in 2003, the pace of increase in the number of female scientists surpasses that of males in all organizations,” the ministry said. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to focus on boosting female participation in the labor force, which lags well behind that of many other developed economies. (read more on Japantimes.co.jp)

In a survey conducted by the Internal Affairs Ministry in March 2013, the number of female scientists has increased by 0.4 percent from the previous year. In 2012, Russia had 41.2 percent, while Britain registered 37.7 percent in 2011, along with Italy’s 34.9 percent. The United States had 33.6% in 2010. Japan’s personal best still remains lower than Germany. (read more on japandailypress.com)

This young female scientist was accused of fabricating data and the media coverage was mainly focused on the fact that she was a female rather than her research background.

Haruko Obokata, 30, blamed her youth and inexperience for errors in her methodology, but said she had managed to create the building-block cells capable of growing into the specialized cells of the brain, liver, heart, or kidneys. “I apologize with my whole heart to my co-authors..and many others for causing trouble because of my insufficient efforts-ill-preparedness,” a visibly shaken Obotaka told a press conference. Obotaka was feted as a modern-day Marie Curie after unveiling research that showed a simple way to re-program adult cells to become a kind of stem cell. But within weeks of her paper being published in the prestigious journal Nature, questions began to emerge, with fellow scientists saying they could not replicate her results. Head of Riken’s probe committee, told a press conference after it was revealed Obotaka had cut-and-pasted illustrations used in other studies.

If the outcome of Obokata’s research was correct, she could have made a major discovery to grow tissue to treat diabetes and parkinson’s disease. But the head of Riken Institution which sponsored Obokata’s research released a statement that the data was falsified and that the young female researcher drew the conclusion using falsified data. PM Shinzo Abe has made greater gender equality and female advancement in the workforce a plank of his economic revival strategy for Japan. But the recognition of Obokata, a fashionable young woman, as a leading scientist still made waves in conservative, male-dominated Japan. Obotaka maintains that her findings are genuine.

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