Discrimination

Victims were ‘shocked’ to learn about Tokyo med school’s scheme to thwart women’s applications

Tetsuo Yukioka (C), Managing Director of Tokyo Medical University and Keisuke Miyazawa (L), Vice-President of Tokyo Medical University, leave after a news conference in Tokyo, Japan August 7, 2018. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai )

Earlier this month, a damning exposé in the Japanese daily the Yomiuri Shimbun revealed that officials at Tokyo Medical University have been systematically lowering female applicants’ entrance exam scores in an attempt to curtail the number of women who are admitted to the university. Now, victims of the scheme are opening up about the anger and shock they felt upon learning of the efforts to thwart their applications.

“There were rumors that the school deliberately failed women so they could produce more male doctors,” a woman referred to as Riko Miyauchi told The Guardian. “But I was still shocked when I found out that those rumors were true.”

Revelations about the rigged exams came to light during an investigation into the school’s alleged attempt to boost the exam scores of the son of education ministry official Futoshi Sano in return for a financial grant. After conducting its own internal investigation, the university apologized for deliberately marking down the scores of female candidates, in an effort to keep the number of female students at around 30 percent. Officials reportedly acted on the belief that female graduates would be less likely to work at the university’s hospital because they would resign or take long periods of leave to raise children.

Sayumi Tanaka, whose real name has also been concealed, was among those who learned that her test scores had been manipulated. She told The Guardian that she feels deeply wronged by the school’s actions.

“Changing people’s test scores because of their gender is straightforward discrimination,” she said. “There is a huge difference between changing an exam score and giving someone a poor evaluation in an interview, because in the latter the examiner has more of a free hand.”

The recent scandal serves as yet another reminder of the obstacles that working women face in Japan, in spite of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to encourage more women to enter the workforce. Recent reports have shown, for instance, that Japanese employers try to influence when women become pregnant and take maternity leave, and that single mothers struggle below the poverty line because of the perception that women should stay at home and take care of their children. Last week, officials from the university apologized after the scandal had come to light. “We deeply apologize for having inconvenienced and caused so many people pain, with such a serious scandal.” Tetsuo Yukioka, the medical school’s managing director told reporters at a press conference. “Society is changing rapidly,” he added. “And we need to respond to that.

But for the women whose education and career ambitions were derailed by the blatant discrimination, apologies where of little consolation. Tanaka told The Guardian that she is thinking about seeking monetary compensation from the university. “I want them to return the money I spent on the entrance exam,” she said. “If I had known that the school discriminated against female candidates I would never have applied.”

Below, watch video of the school officials apologizing at a press conference.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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