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Empowering Women in Science in the Chugoku-Shikoku Region

The Joint Symposium to Promote the Active Participation of Female Researchers hosted at Hiroshima University’s MIRAI CREA, spotlighted the personal journeys of established women researchers. The initiative aimed to bolster the community of female researchers in the natural sciences, letting them showcase their work, share experiences, and network.   Invited speakers represented all three programs sponsoring the symposium: the Program Vigorous Development of the Next-Generation by Establishment of the Hiroshima University Fellowship for Female Graduate Students in Science and Technology, HIRAKU-Global, and the International Institute for Sustainability with Knotted Chiral Meta Matter (SKCM2).

These programs came together to host this symposium as they all include the mission to support women in science. As outlined in the talk by Professor Yoko Ishida, the Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Hiroshima University, studies have consistently indicated a correlation between gender diversity in the workforce and heightened innovation, profitability, and value creation. Yet, a disparity persists: the percentage of women in science remains low, especially in Japan, where they comprise a mere 17% of researchers, according to 2022 figures from the Cabinet Office. Women face a number of issues while pursuing careers in science.

Dr. Marjolein Dikstra, a distinguished physicist from Utrecht University, Netherlands, and a Principal Investigator at SKCM2, shared personal experiences from her academic journey that began in 1985. She recounted instances where educators actively discouraged her from pursuing physics, stating it wasn’t a field for girls. While such overt challenges were faced by Dr. Dikstra decades ago, ensuring today’s young women don’t face similar deterrents is crucial. The challenges extend beyond biases, encompassing issues such as balancing work with family life.

In light of these challenges, the symposium at Hiroshima University aimed to foster connections and promote open discussions that would help women in science. Dr. Sayako Inoue of Ehime University shared her insights, emphasizing the importance of confronting challenges, cherishing happiness, and stepping outside one’s comfort zone. “Let’s inspire each other. Let’s share and grow this community of scientists,” she passionately conveyed. The attendees resonated deeply with these messages, expressing appreciation for the invaluable perspectives and life lessons imparted by the invited speakers.

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