Women’s grades deflated at one of Tokyo’s leading medical universities for past eight years

One of Japan’s leading medical universities has been deflating women’s grades for the past eight years in an attempt to lower the ratio of women in each class, local news agencies reported on Thursday.

Tokyo Medical university is a private institution known for consistently being ranked as the country’s top university for clinical medicine. The Yomiuri Shimbun said the university has been automatically lowering the entrance exam results of female applicants for the past decade, an attempt to keep the ratio of women in each class of students below 30 percent. A specific coefficient was reportedly applied to the scores of all female applicants, lowering them by 10 to 20 percent.

The above details were revealed after the university’s top administrators were placed under investigation after having accepted bribes from an education ministry official. Masahiko Usui, chairman of the school’s board of regents, and Mamoru Suzuki, the university president, resigned this month after allegations that they had inflated the grades of the ministry official’s son to secure him a spot at the school.

Of the 1,019 female applicants to the university in 2018, only 30 women – less than 3 percent – were eventually accepted. Nearly 9 percent of male applicants gained admission, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

Kyoko Tanebe, an executive board member at the Japan Joint Association of Medical Professional Women, told the Japan Times that other medical institutions probably have similar policies that discriminate against female applicants. According to recent data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, women make up less than a quarter of doctors in Japan – the lowest proportion among the 34 OECD countries studied.

“It’s a systematic problem in Japanese society that we’re not supporting our mothers, but . . . this is the worst possible way to fix the problem,” said Yusuku Tsugawa, a Japanese doctor currently working as an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The doctor, in a study published last year found that patients treated by female physicians in the United States had significantly lower mortality rates and readmission rates than those cared for by male physicians at the same hospital. These findings may not be directly translatable to Japan, but Tsugawa believes it is still unwise to excluded potential female doctors. Barring qualified candidates from medical school, particularly as Japan continues to grapple with an aging population, will harm the country in the long run, he said.

And even if Japanese women do drop out of the profession at higher rates than men right now, it is not the role of medical schools to fix that, Tsugawa argued. “Their job, their role and their mission is to train the doctors. Their mission is not to ensure an optimal workforce in Japan,” he said.

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