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A Japanese Medical School Lowered Female Applicants' Admission Scores Due To Bias Against Working Women

Tokyo Medical University. RS1421/Wikimedia Commons

According to reports in multiple Japanese news outlets, Tokyo Medical University has been deducting points from all female applicants’ entrance exam scores in order to maintain a lower ratio of women students and therefore a lower percentage of female doctors.

The practice has apparently been going on since 2011 and was only revealed when the university’s lawyers conducted an internal investigation into the chairman and president, following accusations that they bribed a government bureaucrat. Once the details began to emerge, whistleblowers explained that school officials believed that too many female physicians would be detrimental to the healthcare industry because they would quit as soon as they began having families. After 38 percent of successful applicants in 2010 were women, administrators began manipulating scores to reduce future class years to 30 percent women.


Per The Japan Times, admission to Tokyo Medical University is a two-step process: First, applicants take a multiple choice test, then, those that passed make it to an essay-based evaluation and attend interviews. Women’s results from the first phase have allegedly been altered by about 10 percent for the past seven years.

A university spokesperson said today that a legal probe has been initiated to look into the matter further, and that findings could be released as soon as later this month.

Ruriko Tsushima, head of a women’s clinic in Tokyo and an executive board member with the Japan Joint Association of Medical Professional Women, said that the news confirms what many women in the field have suspected to occur behind closed doors.

“I can’t forgive (what the institution is said to have) done to people who studied hard to get into the university, hoping to become doctors,” she told The Japan Times. “It shouldn’t happen in a democratic country that is supposed to provide equal educational opportunities.”


The university’s tactics reflect the country’s longstanding cultural bias against working women. It is well documented that women are less likely to get hired for white-collar jobs than equally qualified men, or paid as much as their male colleagues if they are, based on the assumption that they will ultimately leave the workforce for years at a time, or permanently, to become mothers. Unfortunately for the Japanese economy, these antiquated practices have led to more and more educated women choosing careers over having a family, leading to a dwindling population and thus a dwindling workforce.

Recognizing these issues, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began implementing a series of programs aimed at revitalizing the market by empowering women – an approach that has garnered the name “womenomics” – when he took office six years ago. Goals include tripling the number of women in management roles by 2020 and enticing more women to return to work after pregnancy by creating more daycare centers and encouraging companies to offer paid maternity leave.

In response to the public uproar, education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stated: “Generally speaking, unjustly discriminating against female applicants in an entrance exam cannot be accepted at all.

“We will wait for a report from the university and consider how to respond.”


healthHealth and Medicine
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  • sexism,

  • prejudice,

  • cultural bias