Backwards in high heels isn't enough
August 2, 2018 6:21 PM   Subscribe

Medical university rigged exams against women: Informed sources say Tokyo Medical University has for years rigged entrance exams to limit its intake of women students, slashing their scores by well over 10 percent across-the-board.
...The sources say the university reduced scores from the paper test results of all women before they went on to sit for a final test. The reduction rate differed from year to year, sometimes reaching more than 10 percent.

The sources say the practice was triggered by 2010 entrance exams when the university found out that women accounted for nearly 40 percent of successful applicants.
According to the BBC:
Yomiuri Shimbun, which is the country's biggest daily newspaper, published the report examining student admission numbers on Thursday, sparking the complaints.

It quotes an unnamed source saying officials adopted a "silent understanding" to reduce the number of female entrants over concerns female graduates were not going on to practice medicine in employment.

"Many female students who graduate end up leaving the actual medical practice to give birth and raise children," the source told the newspaper.
Asahi Shimbun:
An education ministry official in charge of the matter said universities are allowed to adjust the gender ratio as long as they clearly state such quotas when announcing plans for accepting new students.

But since Tokyo Medical University made no such announcement, its adjustments were a problem, the official said.
From Wikipedia's Women in Japan article:
...in 2003, the Japanese government set a goal to have 30% of senior government roles filled by women. In 2015, only 3.5% were; the government has since slashed the 2020 goal to 7%, and set a private industry goal to 15%.⁽³⁰⁾
posted by XMLicious (38 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
What I don't really get about this story is why did this school resort to these test score shenanigans when the option to impose an explicit quota was apparently allowed?

Meanwhile in the US, while Title IX is known nowadays for its impact on college athletics and sexual harassment policies, it is worth remembering that the passage of Title IX in 1972 was also responsible for lifting the quotas that many (most?) American medical schools and law schools had on admitting women. And sometimes the quotas were zero.
posted by mhum at 6:48 PM on August 2, 2018 [29 favorites]


The term “rigged the exam” makes it sound like they crafted the exam to disadvantage women in the way it was administered or in its content (which would be bad enough). But what they did was much more blatant: they directly altered women’s exam scores, dropping them by as much as 10%.

Not so much a “rigged exam” as outright fraud in the way they reported the scores. A rigged process, to be sure.
posted by darkstar at 6:50 PM on August 2, 2018 [52 favorites]


Man, 2018 really continues to shine, don't it? Like, I need a new moisturizer, something with some SPFs because FLAMES FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE!
posted by sexyrobot at 7:14 PM on August 2, 2018 [58 favorites]


Just an anecdote related to women physicians and their choice whether to keep working after childbirth...

I was visiting my specialist doctor a week ago and asked about his wife and new baby. After telling me they were doing well, and him sharing a photo of the little one (adorable), he said of his wife, who is also a physician:

“She’s just gone back to work now. You know, I always knew there were social pressures on women after childbirth, but I never realized how bad it was. If she stays at home to be with the kids, society condemns her. If she goes back into the workforce, society condemns her. There’s no winning. It’s a real double standard, with the way men are treated.”

This is in the US. I can only guess what the pressures on women to remain at home must be like in other countries. But it’s just terrible that any society would first ingrain an expectation that women should quit work after childbirth, and then penalize them in their career options because they might follow that social expectation.
posted by darkstar at 7:20 PM on August 2, 2018 [26 favorites]


I had an argument with my 83-yo mother, literally last week, on whether sexism actually exists. She scoffed at the idea that anyone, other then a few deranged people, were “keeping women down.” Didn’t matter how many articles like this I quoted. She said things like “Well, you say that’s happening, but I certainly don’t know anyone who would do anything like that.”

I despair, y’all. I can’t even convince my mom, who actually loves me, to acknowledge these things are happening.
posted by greermahoney at 7:34 PM on August 2, 2018 [38 favorites]


Somewhere in Japan, women, real actual human beings, are reading this news and remembering their test scores, and realizing it's them, they personally are the ones who were cheated out of the reward for their hard work.
I can only imagine the sense of betrayal.
posted by Adridne at 7:48 PM on August 2, 2018 [148 favorites]


greermahoney I'm amazed your Mom hasn't had enough personal direct experience of sexism for her to believe it exists. My Mom is about the same age as yours, and my god the stories she has to tell.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:51 PM on August 2, 2018 [11 favorites]


I despair, y’all. I can’t even convince my mom, who actually loves me, to acknowledge these things are happening.

I've definitely encountered older women who take the position that complaining about these things don't help, that they just have to keep going, etc. Sometimes I think that there's kind of a break point at this stuff -- when enough people agree that women deserve to be treated equally, it might be worth stopping to protest unfair treatment. For women grow up in communities where they could never expect that basic level of decency, to acknowledge sexism that society won't is a waste of energy.

...I don't know if that is relevant to this situation with your mom, but it sounds like extremely frustrating either way. :(
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:20 PM on August 2, 2018 [3 favorites]


I sometimes think maybe some older women had to convince themselves that sexism didn’t exist and everything was just fine because otherwise they’d go crazy, trapped in an oppressive marriage and society that would be decades away from any real change. Coping mechanisms.
posted by Jubey at 8:51 PM on August 2, 2018 [48 favorites]


"Many female students who graduate end up leaving the actual medical practice to give birth and raise children," the source told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, over in pesky reality:

"The aim of this study was to determine how prevalent work-related violence against physicians is and whether gender, age, specializations and workplaces are associated with verbal and physical violence against physicians in Japan... Female physicians, psychiatrists, and emergency physicians are likely to be exposed to physical violence."

"Our study demonstrated that a significant proportion of Japanese women experienced gender-based discrimination and perceived gender-based career obstacles compared with male physicians."

"In conclusion, the results of this study suggested that many female doctors resigned from a full-time position within 10 years of graduating from medical school, largely because of the gender role stereotype and poor working conditions."

And Japan has a persistent gender wage gap, spends little on early childhood education and care, and values women as caregiving parents and house managers.

The country's birthrate has fallen to a record low.

(But let's blame the women themselves for Tokyo Medical's score-tampering and bias.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:33 PM on August 2, 2018 [57 favorites]


what the actual everloving fuck
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:45 PM on August 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


Further proof, in case any were needed, that humanity is fully prepared to drive itself off a cliff rather than admit fault. Or, not even fault, merely "suboptimal choice weighting".
posted by aramaic at 10:48 PM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wait, I thought we lived in a meritocracy and women just weren't smart enough. What happened to that?
posted by Toddles at 11:28 PM on August 2, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yeah, what the everloving fuck was my reaction as well. Front page of newspapers. Japanese Twitter is pissed. My relatives are pissed. I am pissed. All old dudes in power need to be thrown into a volcano.
Going to go bike now before I like, spontaneously combust.
posted by sacchan at 12:21 AM on August 3, 2018 [31 favorites]


Ok, back from bike. Maybe not "all" old dudes in power, but some
posted by sacchan at 2:38 AM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


Having taught at a medical school in Japan for four years (not a great experience) I find myself sitting here with the ever helpful response of, "No duh. Everybody knows this discrimination is rampant in med schools in Japan. Why are you surprised?"

The only thing that surprises me is how clumsy they were about it. Interviews are a preferred way to sweep discrimination under the rug. But on second thought, the arrogance of it is typical.
posted by Gotanda at 6:23 AM on August 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


This is one of the key points in the whole system that amplifies discrimination against women but is also a symptom of how unhealthy medical schools--and other schools--can be in Japan.

"An official with the university told NHK it was concerned that a large increase in the number of women posed a serious problem for the future of the university hospital, because female doctors tend to quit after marrying or starting families."

The institutions are silos. Top graduates often stay in their home institution. Too busy relaxing on vacation to lay my hands on the data at the moment, but my experience at one major medical university was that the vast majority of faculty were graduates of that same university (or the other acceptable source was Tokyo University). Privately, many faculty members bemoaned the lack of this kind of diversity but found it very hard to do anything about it in hiring etc. without clear leadership from the top.

Tokyo Medical University Hospital draws most of its staff from their own graduates. If many of them leave the profession early for any reason, they have serious problems with staffing, but also the power of alumni networks, etc. They could choose to make it possible for women to stay in practice. But they can't bring themselves to make being a physician in a major hospital humane for men. (Please read with appropriate sarcastic tone there.)

Disclaimer: Mrs Gotanda benefited from life-changing treatment at that hospital and excellent care. From a buncha guys.
posted by Gotanda at 6:57 AM on August 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm married to medicine, and this kind of shit goes on here in the US too. Not perhaps at the medical school entry point, but certainly in the workforce. Men are elevated to positions of authority, and strong, assertive women physicians are often given shit assignments, fewer hours, and subjected to disciplinary actions when they are perceived to be too 'uppity.' It makes me want to puke.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:04 AM on August 3, 2018 [8 favorites]


Flames. Flames on the side of my face.
posted by seyirci at 9:05 AM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Horrifying, but unsurprising.

Japan has rampant, open, sexism easily on par with the USA in the 1950's. Women are expected to work low level office drone jobs (Office Ladies) for a few years then marry and be housewives. The fact that this doesn't actually reflect the reality of life in Japan is irrelevant, it didn't accurately reflect the reality of life in the USA in the 1950's either, but it actively keeps women down in low paying shit jobs.

Women aren't promoted out of office drone work because it is expected that they'll be quitting soon, and of course women do quit the shit work when they're not promoted.

Most Japanese newspapers don't have a single jobs section, they have a jobs for women section and a jobs for men section. And the jobs for women usually specify an age range (and implied beauty standard). Women hired to be the office shit work Office Ladies are young, and if they don't quit by the time they're "too old" they'll be fired.

Some occupations are simply not open to women. Technically, legally, they may be and you might even find a very occasional woman in some jobs, but in practice some jobs are just for men. Taxi driver and train driver, for example. My Japanese language textbook introduced us to expressions of amazement and surprise with the phrase "I saw a woman driving a taxi today".

Which is why this is horrifying, but not surprising in the slightest. America is a pretty damn sexist, but it's nothing compared to Japan.
posted by sotonohito at 10:31 AM on August 3, 2018 [13 favorites]


I remember an episode of Dr. Kildare in which a female intern had to sign a contract promising not to get married for some number of years in order to be considered for a residency. Have we made so little progress in 50-60 years? Sickening.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:01 AM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]



What I don't really get about this story is why did this school resort to these test score shenanigans when the option to impose an explicit quota was apparently allowed?


Because they were ashamed of their reason for imposing the quota., because they knew it was wrong and would never hold up to public scrutiny.
posted by davejay at 7:43 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'd like to hear more about the reaction to this in Japan. Are there any English-language links, or someone willing to summarize Japanese Twitter and press?
posted by medusa at 9:27 PM on August 3, 2018


(In case it's not obvious, the first above-the-fold OP link is to NHK World, the international English-language broadcast of Japan's state television service, and the Asahi Shimbun link goes to a Japanese newspaper.)
posted by XMLicious at 11:48 PM on August 3, 2018




From the first link above,
A group of female doctors who had previously raised their concerns over the possible existence of the discriminatory practice said they are glad the issue has finally come to light.

Kyoko Tanebe, an executive board member at the Japan Joint Association of Medical Professional Women, said other medical universities are believed to have engaged in similar practices.

“This is a grave issue,” said Tanebe, an obstetrician in Toyama Prefecture. She spoke about the suspected practice a number of times at government committee meetings and gatherings of medical practitioners, but many didn’t show much interest, she said.
posted by sukeban at 2:00 AM on August 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is outright fraud. These women are entitled to a refund of their tuition and exam fees as well as compensation for their wasted time and lost career opportunities.
posted by epo at 2:12 AM on August 4, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'd like to hear more about the reaction to this in Japan. Are there any English-language links, or someone willing to summarize Japanese Twitter and press?
posted by medusa at 6:27 on August 4 [+] [!]

On a family trip outside Japan at the moment, but you can browse the Japanese hashtag #東京医大 where some are auto-translated and the Goog can help with the rest. Here is a human translation of a particularly nasty tweet (what do you expect from a right wing militarist politician?) but telling that a politician believes he will gain benefit by publicly defending TMU.

The French Embassy is tweeting in Japanese that they raised the number of female medical students from 57.7% to 64.1% between 2000 and 2016 and expect to see parity in doctors in practice in 2021. They end by asking people to come study abroad in France. They get lots of pushback re racism and some Vive la France!

My general sense at a distance and not knowing anyone at TMU is that women are righteously pissed. As they should be. As everybody should be. But, not everyone is. And, people have been pissed for a long time and before. This news broke at a time when a lot of people will have some time on their hands so I hope the protests take off. Japanese people do have the proven capacity for some hellacious campus and city protests but those were about 50 years ago or more... Will this time be different? I sure hope so.

This is outright fraud. These women are entitled to a refund of their tuition and exam fees as well as compensation for their wasted time

Right! And the way the exam system works, especially under more stringent supervision by the MoE recently, is that compensation must be paid just for errors--let alone fraud. Recently saw a case where some students were marked lower and did not gain admission simply through a pretty subtle mistake--not policy. Fees refunded, compensation paid, if they had already paid tuition elsewhere they might have had to be paid that as well if they wished to matriculate. It could have come to millions of dollars for one minor scoring error in one year. If similar compensation were imposed over that period of time it might bankrupt the university and hospital, so I expect to see no offers any time soon. If it goes to court, as it should, it will take years and the payouts will not be like in the US.
posted by Gotanda at 7:51 AM on August 4, 2018 [6 favorites]


It would be interesting if anyone in Japan used this info to do further discrimination studies. The women who did make it into the school during these years are provably smarter -- or at least more diligent -- than their male counterparts. How do these two groups fare after graduating?*

*I mean, I think I know, but still.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:58 AM on August 4, 2018 [3 favorites]


grandiloquiet, I think you are on to something. It would also be interesting to look at the cohort that were not admitted but had in fact passed the threshold. How did they fare when they were forced to go elsewhere? So many things in play, but a potentially revealing natural (unethical) experiment.
posted by Gotanda at 9:26 AM on August 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


About 10 years ago I was in a class with a guy from Japan. He was a really nice guy, very genuine and seemed kind. For some reason that I've since forgotten, at one point the professor asked the class "who here believes that women are inferior to men?" And he was the only person who raised his hand. He seemed genuinely confused as to the controversy this created, and didn't seem to intend any malice. So something like this seems really unsurprising.
posted by whistle pig at 11:49 AM on August 4, 2018


The thing that gets me the most about this story is how casually it was leaked to the press. There's a sense that the powers-that-be at the university didn't really expect this story to explode like this and sort of tossed it out there to... what, hide something more sinister? This admission of discrimination comes on the heels of a bribery case which in itself is a pretty big deal, so what could be worse? Malpractice?

I also wanted to scream yesterday when I read a tweet by someone, a woman I'm sure, who participated in a protest outside the university gate (not anywhere near the hospital). Apparently some male faculty and male students were pointing and grinning, some students outright berating the female protesters, basically basking in their privilege and expecting this to, as it probably will to their credit I suppose, all blow over within a few months at best.

There's a trending hashtag, #私たちは女性差別に怒っていい, which also breaks my heart because it means "it's OK to be angry at discrimination." Women have internalized this kind of sexist pushback for so long that a lot of them don't even realize that it's wrong, and that it doesn't have to be that way.

Meanwhile, someone pointed out that the prime minister of New Zealand: 1. is female, 2. is 38 which is the youngest ever even in NZ, 3. found out she was pregnant 3 months after she took office, 4. took maternal leave, a first for a head of state anywhere, and 5. isn't even married to her partner. These are from a tweet so maybe some of the details aren't accurate, but I seriously can't imagine any of these to become a reality here in Japan any time in the foreseeable future.

With the heat outside and the sheer disgust and anger and despair I've been feeling for the past, oh I don't know, ever since Abe took office would be a decent start, I'm boiling inside as well and having trouble concentrating on my day-to-day life. What the actual everloving fuck is right.
posted by misozaki at 3:33 PM on August 4, 2018 [13 favorites]


What I don't really get about this story is why did this school resort to these test score shenanigans when the option to impose an explicit quota was apparently allowed?

Because doing so openly would be acknowledging the policy and create tension and disturb people. I'm certain the people responsible convinced themselves that a) the policy of keeping qualified women out of medical school was good, and b) it would disturb people if they did it openly.

There's a **HUGE** cultural thing of not rocking the boat in Japan. Discrimination is fine, but carrying it out in a way that causes controversy, carrying it out in a way that makes waves, that's not fine.

This is also why the people misozaki links to have to say that it's OK to be angry at discrimination. Because protesting, being angry, that's also rocking the boat and therefore bad and wrong and uncivilized.

If you think this tradition of putting the negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice (thank you Dr. King) enables abusers and discrimination in Japan then you are 100% correct.

It's that cultural tradition of not rocking the boat which made it so hard for the victims of the Minimata mercury poisoning to get any attention, much less restitution, and in fact they're still trying to get full restitution.

The mythic average Japanese might agree that lowering the grades of women was bad, but they'd also say that it's bad to make a fuss about it or protest it or really do anything but accept the apologies from the administrators and move on without ever talking about it again or trying to fix the situation, or checking to see what other institutions have similar systemic sexism, or anything else because not rocking the boat is the most important thing.
posted by sotonohito at 4:30 PM on August 4, 2018 [9 favorites]


From the Guardian: Tokyo medical school admits changing results to exclude women. Here are the first four paragraphs:
One of Japan’s most prestigious medical schools has admitted deliberately altering entrance exam scores for more than a decade to restrict the number of female students and ensure more men became doctors.

Tokyo Medical University manipulated all entrance exam results starting in 2006 or even earlier, according to findings released by lawyers involved in the investigation, confirming recent reports in Japanese media.

The school, which initially denied knowledge of the test score manipulations, said it should not have occurred and vowed to prevent it from happening again.

It said it would consider retroactively admitting those who otherwise would have passed the exams, although it did not explain how it would do so.
posted by Kattullus at 10:05 AM on August 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Many female students who graduate end up leaving the actual medical practice to give birth and raise children," the source told the newspaper.

Seems like the actual problem here is that not enough men will take off from their jobs to help raise their children.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:03 AM on August 9, 2018 [4 favorites]




From a certain point of view, it's kind of like mass gaslighting. Whether or not it was their main goal, who knows how many women came away believing that they're not as intelligent or accomplished as they really are.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:58 AM on August 10, 2018 [2 favorites]


I know the exact mechanics of it aren't the main issue, but I was struck by how complicated all this was:
The investigation found that in this year’s entrance exams the school reduced all applicants’ first-stage test scores by 20% and then added at least 20 points for male applicants, except those who had previously failed the test at least four times.
This feels like a process that was honed over the years. I don't think they'd have just come up with something this weirdly specific right away. I got the impression from this passage, and from the rest of the article XMLicious linked to, that there were many, many meeting through the years where administrators discussed how best to keep female medical students few (and also, weirdly, repeat test-takers, which makes me wonder if their original formula for keeping women from being admitted had some kind of odd side-effect they wanted to circumvent). What a thoroughly shameful matter this is.
posted by Kattullus at 1:22 PM on August 10, 2018 [7 favorites]


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