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A “Necessary Evil”?

Keeping Women Out of

Medical Schools Won’t Fix

What Ails the Japanese Medical Profession

By Chelsea Szendi Schieder

The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus


News sources revealed in August 2018 that Tokyo Medical University has been systematically tampering with its entrance exam scores to reduce the number of female students at the institution. This scandal led to a government investigation into medical faculties, and initial reports suggest that such gender discrimination is widespread in medical faculty admissions. This issue relates to several stubborn problems facing Japanese society today: It reflects how a more general context of gender discrimination threatens to impede new solutions to the crises facing medicine in Japan as a workplace and as a place of care, and how recent efforts to counter discriminatory practices and encourage “diversity” lack accountability. This article shows how the gender gap in the medical field points to deeper problems in the profession, how recent research suggests that gender diversity may improve medical outcomes in terms of patient care, and how this entrance-exam scandal highlights the inadequacy and lack of accountability behind recent efforts to promote “diversity.”

Keywords: Tokyo Medical University, medical profession, women, workplace, gender discrimination, diversity

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Chelsea Szendi Schieder is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Economics at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan. She writes contemporary histories about contentious politics for academic and general audiences. Her book on the gendered politics of the postwar student movement in Japan, entitled Co-Ed Revolution: The Female Student in the Japanese New Left, is forthcoming with Duke University Press.