Purpose and Philosophy

This page provides an outline of the Support Office, including the Background that led to our founding, our Objectives, and a Summary of our activities.

Since the Support Office first opened in July of 2006, our staff has comprised a variety of individuals from within and beyond the university who have been carrying out activities in alignment with the Gender Equality Committee, which answers directly to the University President. With the completion of the project period funded by the Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology as a “Model Development Project to Support Female Researchers,” we have been working in a new administrative capacity to promote and expand support activities since AY2009. Hokkaido University has established a new university-wide “Front Office for Human Resource Education and Development,” in which the Support Office for Female Researchers serves a contributory role, continuing our involvement in training and support of all researchers – both men and women alike– while deepening our organic cooperation with other human resource development programs.

Background

Formulated at the end of May 2004, Hokkaido University’s “Medium-term Goals and Medium-term Plan” listed a variety of initiatives conforming to the spirit of the “Basic Act for Gender-Equal Society and Act on Securing, Etc. of Equal Opportunity and Treatment between Men and Women in Employment,” including the establishment of an organization responsible for taking comprehensive measures such as positive action policies. Also listed among these initiatives were “increasing the proportion of female faculty members” and “striving to provide a complete child care environment, such as through the inclusive operation of the “Kodomo-no-Sono” Child Care Center, so as to enable the secure employment and enrollment of any members of the university – whether staff, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, foreign researchers, or otherwise – who require child care facilities.” In line with these objectives, we have been advancing a variety of initiatives aiming to bring about diversification and gender equality among research and education personnel by working to create an environment in which female researchers can embrace a positive vision of the future in their research engagements at various stages of their careers and lives.

Specific examples of such initiatives that could be cited include the opening of a licensed child care center at Hokkaido University’s Sapporo Campus, the establishment of the Otsuka Prize for Outstanding Female Doctoral Graduate Students, and the development of unique and practical measures within the Center of Excellence (COE) Program that served as the core of Hokkaido University’s Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences, which was the only one of Japan’s many 21st Century COE Programs to advocate “support for female researchers” together with support for early career researchers. Nevertheless, expanding this support to the entire university has not been easy.

In August 2005, on the occasion of an inspection visit of the university by Ms. Junko KAWAMURA, then Executive Director of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Science and Technology Policy Bureau, a meeting was held for the exchange of opinions among female researchers at the suggestion of Mr. Koshu KADOTA, then Director of the Department of Research and International Affairs. This opportunity generated connections that were to become the seed of a network of female researchers participating in exchanges of opinion from each department, heightening momentum among researchers to become actively involved in mutual cooperation toward the active promotion of women at the university.

Moreover, this event provided an opportunity that led to an application at the end of the same year to the MEXT Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology (Model Plans for Supporting Women in Research), which devoted a portion of the national budget in FY2006 to supporting female researchers for the first time, and led to the creation of a Support Plan (including The Hokudai (Hokkaido University) Positive Action Scheme) spearheaded by Prof. Sanae ARIGA of Hokkaido University’s Graduate School of Agriculture. In response to the proposal of this unique and eminently practicable Hokudai Positive Action Scheme, immediate steps were taken to review the specifics and establish systems toward implementation. The launch of the Positive Action Scheme in April of 2006 within three months of the proposal, and its funding by the university’s own treasury, without waiting for selection by the Special Coordination Fund, are due to the bold and decisive enthusiasm of two of the university’s leaders at the time, President Mutsuo NAKAMURA and Vice-President Yoshiro INOUE. Subsequently, building on the successful proposal for the Hokkaido University Project “Women of Science, Shine! A Plan for Activating, Nurturing, and Supporting Female Researchers at Hokkaido University”, the Support Office for Female Researchers at Hokkaido University (FResHU) was established in July 2006 to carry out planning, organization, and promotion of support measures capable of responding to specific problems faced by female researchers.

In this way, FResHU owes its existence to the mutual discussion of ideas among Hokkaido University’s female researchers.

Objectives

We are establishing systems to promote a variety of support activities that provide female researchers and women who are pursuing careers in research at Hokkaido University – whether they are undergraduates, graduate students, academic researchers, or teachers – with the opportunity to make full use of their abilities and to be evaluated fairly based on their capabilities and performance. Thereby, we are working to enable women to pursue their dreams and potential to the same degree as their male colleagues, while receiving the necessary support so they do not suffer alone, even when facing the challenges of childbirth, parenthood, or family caregiving.

Additionally, by promoting the activities of female researchers, we aim to stimulate research and education across the entire university so that Hokkaido University will become a hotbed of creative and globally competitive research and education, while maintaining an appropriate work-life balance among all of its researchers, both men and women alike.

Outline of Activities

20% by 2020 (Triple Twenties Plan): “To Achieve 20% Representation by Female Researchers at Hokkaido University by 2020”

By promoting “concrete efforts to increase the number of female researchers” and “environmental improvements to maximize activities among female researchers”, and by organically integrating and developing a variety of support measures, Hokkaido University, primarily through FResHU, is working to achieve 20% representation by female researchers by 2020. In contrast, as of December 1, 2005, Hokkaido University employed only 323 female researchers (including professors, associate professors, lecturers, assistants and post-doctoral fellows), accounting for only 11.4% of the university’s overall total of 2,383 researchers. If this comparison is limited to full-time faculty, the proportion of women drops to just 7.2%, and even further to a mere 3.5% for full professors. Female students account for over 25% of mean enrollment in Hokkaido University’s undergraduate and master’s programs, and looking at enrollment in doctoral programs shows that while overall enrollment is declining, the proportion of women has been increasing year by year, and women being granted doctoral degrees (Ph.D.) now represent in excess of 20%.

Promotion and Development of Support Measures that Transform Needs into Seeds

n addition to building a Support Network for Female Researchers and endeavoring to promote and develop support measures that create environments which maximize participation among female researchers, which fully reflect the voices of female researchers with regard to supporting sustainable careers, and which transform “needs” into “seeds”, we are also aiming to foster the next generation of women in science by continuing to focus on support measures that challenge female undergraduate and graduate students to pursue research careers and that encourage female junior high and high school students to choose careers in science.

A One-Stop Contact Point for Information and Support

FResHU is working to establish a One-Stop Service by centralizing its contact points for a variety of support services in order to facilitate female researchers’ quick and easy access to the appropriate information and support as necessary.