Recently, I’ve learnt that in Japan girls are allowed to be part of baseball teams at schools as managers only. Well… this means they are somehow in charge and that’s great, right? Nope! Nothing could be further from the truth. They bring drinks and wash the uniforms. What?? Joshi-mane (short for joshi-manager, girl manager) is a thing now. Don’t believe me? Read more here. I’m still recovering… what??
This is why we have work to do. A lot of it! We are trying to reach as many people as possible and change perceptions and attitudes. However, it is a very slow process. Right before the Christmas break we held our last outreach event of 2016. No experiments this time, but the talks were quite interesting and diverse. From my work in regenerative medicine, to women’s rights and access to healthcare in Kenya, to (women in) civil engineering in Japan.
The girls were surprised that there were women doing such jobs (especially civil engineering), as they’d never seen one and so the stereotypical image they had was that only men can do that job. A few months ago, when I arrived in Japan, I was baffled by many aspects of the culture. Now, I’ve learnt to understand and not be upset or outraged. Japan was (and still is) isolated from the rest of the world for many years. With little contact with other cultures and beliefs, as well as poor English skills, they learn to fit in and accept and obey all social rules without ever questioning them or thinking that there may be different ways of doing things. The Japan Federation of Construction Contractors is now trying to attract more girls into these jobs, doing outreach, using the term kensetsu komachi, which means “construction — young women”. You can read more about this deficit and the cultural reasons behind it on a Financial Times article here. We had a talk by a female engineer, as well as one by a senior male engineer from Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co., Ltd, Tokyo. This is very important. Yes, girls should learn that women can do all kinds of jobs and be inspired by our enthusiastic female speakers. However, especially in Japan, it is crucial that men come forward and openly support these initiatives and say it’s ok, we really want you to join the team.
Saga TV did some media coverage of the event. The article can be found below (Japanese only, sorry!) and there is also a short clip that was aired (you can go to their website and click the button to play):