About Program to supporting research activities of female researchers

Purpose of the Program

As a result of past efforts to support female researchers in Japan, the proportion of women in research roles has begun to increase; however, in comparison to advanced European nations and the US, Japan still has relatively few women in research. Unfortunately, there has not been much progress in the appointment of female researchers to leading positions. Not only from the viewpoint of gender equality but also to demonstrate organizational creativity (including the ability to adopt diverse viewpoints and ideas and to conduct innovative research), it is extremely important to increase the number of female researchers and to improve their research skills.
This program therefore aims to improve the research skills of female researchers and to support their appointment to leading positions. With the cooperation of universities, research institutions, and private enterprises, we are working to improve the research environment for women and to provide more opportunities for research, taking into account many women’s need to balance research against the demands of everyday life (henceforth referred to as the “work/life-balance”), including “life events” such as childbirth, childcare and the long-term care of elderly relatives. Flexible support will enable women to develop and demonstrate their research skills to the full.

Outline of the Program

MEXT has supported female researchers since FY 2006 through its “Promoting Role Models to Support Female Researchers” initiative. Since the implementation of this program, complemented by efforts to improve the working environment for women and raise awareness of their needs, the turnover rates for female researchers have decreased remarkably, contributing to a rapid increase in the overall number of female researchers. Since FY 2011, this program has been integrated into “The Program to Support the Research Activities of Female Researchers.” We promote the activities of female researchers, supporting their efforts to achieve a work/life-balance so as to make full use of their research skills and potential. Since FY 2013, in addition to our traditional approach (working with individual organizations), we have added organizational Hubs and Collaborations involving universities, research organizations and private enterprises, which jointly promote the program, enabling female researchers to strengthen their research skills and successfully compete for leading positions.

Specific Support Measures

Individual organizations
  • Establish a support system for female researchers by allocating managers, coordinators, and counselors (with access to counseling rooms) to solve various problems (such as the need to balance work with life events, and unfair treatment due to interrupted research) that typically discourage female researchers from continuing their research activities.
  • Provide researchers with assistants during life events so that researchers (regardless of gender) can balance research with personal responsibilities (researchers who already receive childcare are not eligible for this provision).
  • Implement efforts to improve women’s research skills by holding seminars on competing for funds (participation is not limited to female researchers).
  • Establish flexible employment arrangements including flextime, job sharing and part-time work.
  • Conduct activities to raise awareness of the need to enable women to hold leading positions at research organizations (for example, through seminars for leading positions in research organizations).
  • Promote the participation of female employees when drawing up personnel plans or holding personnel review committees.
  • Provide career advice and enrichment activities for students, encouraging women to pursue academic careers (for example, by offering consultation events and seminars for female undergraduates and first term medical students wondering whether to complete the second term.
  • Establish a support system that provides researchers in participating organizations with childcare for after school, nighttime, and holidays, as well as for sick or convalescent children.
  • Establish a mechanism to support researchers returning to work after an interruption caused by a life event; this could include assistance with academic meetings or the submission of papers.
Hubs and Collaborations
  • Promote efforts to help female researchers build their research skills despite work-life issues by offering joint research opportunities at linked organizations. Allocate managers, coordinators, counselors, consultants, and administrators to achieve this goal.
  • Use professional networks to encourage the promotion of female researchers into leading positions at participating organizations.
  • Demonstrate “best practice” by creating facilities for researchers at participating organizations and private enterprises; these could include on-the-premise nurseries and shared consultation rooms, complete with counselors.
  • Hold symposiums, seminars, and liaison conferences to raise awareness and pursue organizational reform within participating organizations.
  • Support ambitious career goals for female students and researchers.
  • Enable female researchers to return to work after a life change.

Implementation Period

As a general rule, three years

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Japan Science and Technology Agency