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Can Japan Close Gender Gap to Address Tech Worker Shortage?


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Anna Matsumoto

Anna Matsumoto decided to attend college in the United States after teachers in Japan told her science was difficult for girls.

Credit: Shiho Fukada / The New York Times

Despite its tech-savvy image and economic heft, Japan is a digital laggard, with a traditional paperbound office culture where fax machines and personal seals remain common.

To narrow the gap, Japan must address a severe shortage of technology workers and engineering students, a deficit made worse by the near absence of women. In the university programs that produce workers in these fields, Japan has some of the lowest percentages of women in the developed world, according to UNESCO data. It also has among the smallest shares of women doing research in science and technology.

Women make up 14 percent of university graduates in Japanese engineering programs and 25.8 percent in the natural sciences, according to UNESCO. In the United States, the figures are 20.4 percent and 52.5 percent, and in India they are 30.8 percent and 51.4 percent.

Improving the situation will depend in part on whether Japanese society can be nudged away from the mind-set that tech is a strictly male domain. With its shrinking, graying population and declining work force, Japan has little room to squander any of its talent.

From The New York Times
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