I chose to interview this individual for my Global Politics EA because I believed she would offer an interesting perspective as a woman in the predominately male-centred field of medicine. I also chose to include her because I wanted to see if there was a difference in gender issues faced by individuals that have a specialist degree as opposed to those working in regular companies within Japan.
When asked whether things had changed since she started working, she explained that things had changed but not as much as she had hoped. She said that the separate surname laws were something debated from when she became a student. However, now 30 years later, there doesn’t seem to be much progress in this area and she, herself at times struggles because of these laws that make it very difficult for her to work with her maiden name while having other official paperwork in her marital name. She also further explained one specific incident where she was looked down on or received differential treatment possibly because she was a woman. She explained how as an orthodontist, different dentists have the ability to pay her in two ways. They could either go with a flat fare for each day or a proportional fare in regards to how many clients the orthodontist saw in one day. When she had initially joined a new dental practice, the director recommended her to do a proportional fare (being new, he possibly didn’t expect that she would see that many clients on her first day,) she went along with this and chose the proportional fare option. By chance, the same day, she saw many clients and there ended up being a lot of money invested into dental care under her as the chief dentist. However, when it got to the end of the day, the director of the clinic changed the story and told her that she had chosen a flat fare rate. Being new, she didn’t feel comfortable confronting him over monetary matters and ended up having to go with the flat fare rate which was significantly less than the proportional rate for that day. She explains that while this may just have been a power imbalance problem, it seemed to be a bit of a gender problem as she was slightly looked down on in the office for being the only female dentist that wasn’t in an assisting position. This was an eye-opening experience that she shared with me because I would have never expected a woman in her position to have gone through such differential treatment. The experience did prove to me that gender equality issues are a big problem even when individuals have specialist degrees and skills that are equivalent to men.
I then further asked her many questions about what her clinic is aiming to do to support women in the industry. She explained to me the 4 day work weeks that she was implementing. In most industries, if a worker only works 4 days, the company also does not cover insurance. However, her clinic aims to cover partial insurance. Another new program is the 30-minute break system for workers with young children to be able to pick their children up from school and send them to afterschool activities. While also explaining the issues about the lack of female participation in politics, she further explained the lack of women in her field. She believes that women sometimes refrain from doing medical jobs because of the current social climate in Japan, further mentioning how there were only 20 women in the 120 people that were aiming for a medical tract career in university when she attended. She explained how this lack of involvement is a major issue that needs to be focused on, further highlighting the importance of society quickly adapting to change (something not common in Japan.) One particular example that she discussed was the surname laws. Ever since she was a high schooler, she had always wanted to keep her surname but when she explained this to her husband and her parents in law, they all just laughed at her and she did end up having to change her surname for an official document. She explains how more respect was needed in the situation and she hopes this respect is something that will become of greater focus in the future. By further describing the importance of respecting opinions, I grew to understand more about how Japanese society is often reluctant to change, and more respect for each other is important to ensure society changes for the better.
* The link to the transcript from the meeting can be found here. A picture of the interview was not approved to be shown as the interviewee would like to remain anonymous