In an effort to strike a proper gender balance in a traditionally male-dominated field, a growing number of universities have introduced a special quota for female students pursuing engineering.
Tokyo Institute of Technology will introduce a special quota starting with enrollment in fiscal year 2024. Currently, female students account for only 13 percent of university graduates.
“Resilience and creativity are rarely displayed in the same group of people,” university president Kazuya Masu said in November.
The university said it has made efforts to recruit more girl students in the past, but the number of engineering majors has not increased.
The university authorities hoped that creating a special quota would fix the problem and decided to set a quota for 58 students in FY 2024 and a quota for 143 students in FY 2025.
The university estimates that such efforts will increase the number of female students enrolled by more than 20 percent.
According to a school survey conducted by the Ministry of Education in FY 2021, the number of female students enrolled in engineering-related departments was around 60,000.
This figure is less than 16 per cent of the 380,000 or so engineering students across the country.
According to the survey, the percentage of female students enrolled in engineering is the lowest among other departments.
The gender gap is high even by global standards.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 7 percent of all female university enrollees in Japan chose to major in science and engineering in 2019.
This figure was much lower than the 15 percent average among OECD member countries.
The initiative to equalize the number of female students pursuing engineering is mainly being driven by industry circles.
Many businesses now recognize that diversity produces higher quality results in terms of innovation.
In 2016, the Development Bank of Japan Inc. released a study that showed that the economic value of a patent that involved a woman in its development was 1.4 times greater than that of a patent that involved only men in its development. used to include
Influenced by studies and other factors, an increasing number of engineering departments have decided to set up a special quota for female students in their undergraduate admission process.
In fall 2021, Nagoya University posted on its website such phrases as “diverse human resources that bring flexible ideas and fresh perspectives” and “we are at a stage where a disruptive innovation is needed.”
The university has earmarked a special quota for nine girl students for its engineering department in the admission process for the financial year 2023.
“We have received strong demand from companies who believe that a woman’s perspective is important so they are looking to hire women who have studied engineering,” said Seiichi Miyazaki, Chair of the Engineering Department.
Miyazaki said that in fact, the job placement ratio for such female students has been nearly 100 percent.
“But they are few in number,” said Miyazaki.
Special quota of the department is available as part of the university entrance examination by commendation.
The intent of the process is to “select students from a variety of perspectives, including academic potential,” he said.
Miyazaki said he hoped the new quota would help increase the number of women in engineering majors.
At Shibaura Institute of Technology, four engineering-related faculties have adopted an entrance test for female students by acclamation.
It has been adopted by all the nine engineering faculties from FY 2022.
In the financial year 2023, all the four departments will start using it.
Nara Women’s University opens its Faculty of Engineering in the 2022 spring semester with 45 full-time students.
Many enrollees said in a survey that they chose to study there because it is a women’s university and they thought they would feel “comfortable”.
Ochanomizu University will open a new engineering department in the spring of 2024.
“It’s like a chicken and egg situation,” said a representative of the university, describing the reality of engineering majors. “Female students don’t come because there are many male students.”
“We need to create eggs first to turn the cycle,” the representative said.
(This article was written by Hajime Ueno, Chika Yamamoto and senior staff writer Fumio Masutani.)