The recent news that the pass ratio for female students applying to the Tokyo Medical University slightly exceeded that of their male peers should come as no surprise — education experts have no reason to doubt girls and women's ability to excel in such merit-based exams. Yet given the recent scandal showing the institute and at least eight other medical universities were rigging results against female applicants, the most recent exams are another reminder of persistent gender discrimination and inequality in action within Japanese society. The universities may have reformed their unfair admissions, but systemic biases persist to the detriment of all.

When the exam-rigging came to light last year, it highlighted Japan's deep-rooted, gender-based biases, whereby many believe that women will leave the medical profession once they get married or have children. University professors have presumed female applicants will leave the profession in the future, which supposedly justifies precluding them from opportunities. This deprived young women of life-changing, career-advancing opportunities, but was also a fundamental betrayal of the education system.

Japanese women are still expected to conform to traditional societal roles. According to the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report 2018, Japan ranked 110th out 149 countries, with low ratings in economic participation and political empowerment for women. Traditional gender roles remain entrenched in Japanese society. For example, women do five times more unpaid tasks such as housework, household care and other activities than men. Traditional gender roles extend to the labor market, where women often find themselves limited to lower level jobs, irregular employment and specific industries. In addition, they experience inequality of pay and less job security.