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The roles of women in influential positions

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Popular interest in sociologist Chizuko Ueno appears to be picking up once again after her speech at the University of Tokyo’s entrance ceremony last April became the talk of the town. In it, she exposed the structural discrimination in Japanese society by noting, “Society that does not reward you, no matter how great efforts you may make, awaits you” — became the talk of the town.

Ueno has since appeared on a TV program in which she engaged in a dialogue with younger women and she gave several media interviews. In a recent article in Seventeen magazine, which is aimed at teenagers, she gave advice to junior high and high school girls about their adolescent problems.

Born in 1949, Ueno has been a driving force of feminism in this country. As a sociologist, she was the first in Japan to launch women’s studies. Each time she triggered one of the various booms she created, Ueno offered stimulus to multiple generations of women. Through the years, Ueno herself has not changed a bit — although society has changed a lot.

The 24th International Conference for Women in Business, held in Tokyo on July 7, offered a first-hand chance to listen to her speak. Ueno said it was her first-ever opportunity to speak at a business-related conference. About 90 percent of the participants were women in business from around the world.

“I initially thought it was a joke and that I should decline it,” Ueno said of the request to give a speech at the University of Tokyo, popularly known as Todai. “I haven’t changed. It is the University of Tokyo that has changed. Various issues such as #Me Too and discrimination against female applicants at Tokyo Medical University have caused those changes,” she said. “Women in their 40s feverishly reacted to my speech. They all must have had hard experiences. On the other hand, I felt old-type men are being reincarnated in some 18-year-old boys.”

Women account for less than 20 percent of students at Todai, while 52 percent of the male students at the university come from unified........

© The Japan Times