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Surprisingly few women students attend Japan’s top university. At the University of Tokyo (often referred to in Japan as Todai for short) only 1 in 5 students are women. This gender imbalance represents a real national problem, and potentially a serious impediment both to the Japanese government’s recent efforts to increase the share of women in leadership/executive positions and to broader efforts aimed at addressing long-standing gender inequities throughout the country.

Even though this is a serious problem, there is little research on why Todai has so few women students. Anecdotally, it seems that families often steer their daughters away from prestigious schools, claiming that it’s a waste of time for women to work so hard or that the professional world is the province of men. Arguments like this probably deter some women from applying.

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