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ADMIN 2021. 10. 25.  
   제목: Japan Needs a Lot More Tech Workers. Can It Find a Place for Women?

Japan Needs a Lot More Tech Workers. Can It Find a Place for Women?

The country is pushing to digitally modernize itself, but one of the developed world뭩 starkest gender gaps is holding it back.

Anna Matsumoto is headed to Stanford to study engineering. A bit of a rebel against Japan뭩 cultural expectations, she dyed her hair after her graduation.

By Malcolm Foster

Sept. 1, 2021

TOKYO If Anna Matsumoto had listened to her teachers, she would have kept her inquisitive mind to herself asking questions, they told her, interrupted class. And when, at age 15, she had to choose a course of study in her Japanese high school, she would have avoided science, a track that her male teachers said was difficult for girls.

Instead, Ms. Matsumoto plans to become an engineer. Japan could use a lot more young women like her.

Despite its tech-savvy image and economic heft, the country is a digital laggard, with a traditional paperbound office culture where fax machines and personal seals known as hanko remain common. The pandemic has reinforced the urgent need to modernize, accelerating a digital transformation effort promoted by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, including the opening on Wednesday of a new Digital Agency intended to improve the government뭩 notoriously balky online services.

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.

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. It뭩 an attitude reinforced in comic books and TV shows and perpetuated in some households, where parents worry that daughters who become scientists or engineers will not get married.

As Ms. Matsumoto sees it, keeping women out of technology is wasteful and illogical. 밐alf the world뭩 population is women, said Ms. Matsumoto, 18, who will attend Stanford University this fall and intends to study human-computer interaction. 밒f only men are changing the world, that뭩 so inefficient.

With its shrinking, graying population and declining work force, Japan has little room to squander any of its talent.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry projects a shortfall of 450,000 information technology professionals in Japan by 2030. It has likened the situation to a 밺igital cliff looming before the world뭩 third-largest economy.

In the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking compiled by the International Institute for Management Development, Japan ranks 27th globally and seventh in Asia, behind countries like Singapore, China and South Korea.

Japan뭩 new digital push could offer an opportunity to elevate its women. But it could also leave them further behind.

Globally, women stand to lose more than men as automation takes over low-skilled jobs, according to the 2021 UNESCO Science Report, released in June. Women also have fewer opportunities to gain skills in the increasingly high-demand fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data engineering, the report said.

밄ecause of digitization, some jobs will disappear, and women will probably be affected more than men, said Takako Hashimoto, a former software engineer at Ricoh who is now vice president of Chiba University of Commerce and a delegate to the W-20, which advises the Group of 20 major nations on women뭩 issues. 밪o there뭩 an opportunity here but also a danger.

Ms. Hashimoto noted that there were few government programs in Japan that sought to draw women into technology. The Japanese government should set up tech retraining programs for women who want to go back to work after staying at home to raise children, she said. Others have suggested scholarships expressly for female students seeking to study science or engineering.

밫he government needs to take leadership on this, she said. 밒t hasn뭪 really linked digitalization with gender equality.

Excerpts articles from The New York Times


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