Mend the Gap

Japan have gender equality challenges in several fields. It has an outstanding research base but with few women visible at the top. In 2018, only 16.2 percent of researchers were women, which is low compared to other developed nations. The...

Japan have gender equality challenges in several fields. It has an outstanding research base but with few women visible at the top. In 2018, only 16.2 percent of researchers were women, which is low compared to other developed nations. The situation is the same when it comes to women’s economic participation and opportunity, as well as political empowerment. However, Japan ranks well in gender gap indexes when it comes health and education.

The government have recognized the need to improve Japan’s gender gap. Besides launching his signature economic reform plan, “Abenomics”, Prime Minister Abe has also launched “Womenomics” to promote women’s participation in the labour market. The government has set a target for women to occupy 30 percent of leadership positions in business by 2030. It’s current five-year strategy for science and technology emphasizes promoting diversity and career mobility, including career advancement for women. This is now seen as one of the fundamentals of science, technology and innovation in Japan.

To get more women interested in research and innovation it is important to stimulate girls and young women to dare to dream of being a new Marie Curie, or to become the first female Japanese Nobel laureate. Internet can play an important role in this respect.

Wikipedia is the world’s largest online and user-generated encyclopaedia. Its content influences and colours users’ knowledge about the world. But there is great imbalance on the website, like in society at large. 90 percent of the content is created by men, and there are four times as many articles about men as there are about women. The figures vary globally.

The situation on Japanese Wikipedia is better than most other languages. When it comes to articles about women (any nationality), Japan is in 12th place (or 22.5 percent), and when it comes to articles about Japanese women, Japan holds the 3rd place (27 percent).

To improve the coverage of women on Japanese Wikipedia even further, the Embassy of Sweden and Wikimedia held Japan’s first WikiGap event in September 2019 in Tokyo. According to statistics from Wikimedia, articles about Japanese women on Wikipedia increased from 27 percent to 29.5 percent during the period April-December 2019. The event in Tokyo has been followed by other WikiGap events in Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya and Yokohama.

The issue of gender equality on the internet have been highlighted in Japan by several articles in Japanese media about the WikiGap events. Through the cooperation with the Japanese Wikipedia Community, more people have been made aware of the importance of gender equality on the internet. The Japanese Wikipedians are now promoting the issue themselves.

The WikiGap campaign is one step towards increasing gender equality on the internet and in doing so offer more role models for girls and young women. Maybe some of them will choose a career in science? Let’s continue to make every day of the year a Women’s Day.

Guest blogger Sven Östberg, Counsellor, Embassy of Sweden, Tokyo