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President's Special Interview: MURAKI Atsuko/NISHIO Shojiro

Towards the Realization of Work/Life Balance

President NISHIO: The "Laws concerning the promotion of women's activity in work life" took effect from April 1 of this year, and we at Osaka University have made a "Declaration of Gender Equality at Osaka University" and established the Center for Gender Equality Promotion. I've invited Professor Muraki, a Visiting Professor from the Center, to get some hints and ideas on how we can further advance the construction of diversity at Osaka University in areas such as gender equality. Thank you for coming today.

Professor MURAKI: As I attend meetings like G20, I feel that "inclusive growth" has become a keyword, and the realization of a diverse environment which draws out abilities of not only women, but also of individuals with unique challenges, has become an important global issue. In that way, the establishment of this Center at Osaka University, which attempts to realize gender equality in all areas of education, research, and work, really shows your enthusiasm for diversity, President NISHIO.

NISHIO: In the "Declaration of Gender Equality at Osaka University," I declared that I would promote the "Gender Equality Promotion Action Plan" throughout the entire university. This action plan is comprised of three pillars, and the goal of this plan is (1) to realize a work/life balance between education/research/work and home life, (2) to construct a system that can allow everyone to advance their careers no matter what their lifestyle, and (3) to raise awareness of the members of the university in order to realize an environment in which anyone can succeed, regardless of gender, nationality, disability, or sexual orientation.

MURAKI: You're absolutely right. Up until this point, we made efforts to improve systems to allow individuals to take "holidays" to raise their children (for "life" in this case), but moving forward, it will become necessary to reform how we work in order to continue working and build our careers while raising children ("work" in this case).

NISHIO: At Osaka University, we have what's called a "Research Support System." This is a system in which research supporters, which include graduate students among others, support the research activity of researchers who are otherwise busy with child rearing and long term care and allow them to continue their research uninterrupted. It's also worth noting that both male and female students participate in this system. Additionally, since I began at my position as President of Osaka University, the percentage of women in decision-making positions has gone above 20%, and we will continue to actively promote appointment of women to positions such as vice president, auditor, and other administrative posts.

MURAKI: That is a fantastic number. When it comes to the appointment of women, there are many cases where this has been attempted very cautiously, but I think there is much more success to be had by really going for it and drastically raising the numbers (percentage of women).

NISHIO: I want to raise the number of newly hired female faculty members to 30% by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. I would also like to raise the relatively low percentage of female faculty members in the sciences to 25%. We'll promote various means to achieve this goal, such as the Cross-Appointment System, in which researchers are affiliated with both public research institutes (such as a university) and corporations. By having a considerable ratio of female faculty members and researchers on campus, we'll both maintain an appropriate balance of diversity within the university and create new stimuli and motivation, which will lead to a renewed vitality of the university.

MURAKI: I certainly think that if the percentage of female faculty and staff members rises over 20%~30%, it will start to look as though women make up half of an organization, which is sure to change the atmosphere and invigorate the organization as a whole.

NISHIO: I think that in order to truly realize gender equality, we need both awareness and promotional activity.

MURAKI: When the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was enacted in 1985, the Ministry of Labour (now Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) took ideas for a slogan in order to promote the principles of the law. A slogan that was submitted by a female staff member who had recently entered the Ministry was chosen: "Individuality Surpasses Gender." This slogan was very well received. It's been over 30 years, but there hasn't been a better slogan since then. 

NISHIO: That's a great phrase. I'd like to title this interview after that slogan. While we've only talked about women, I think the promotion of paternity leave is a big issue as well. There aren't many men who take paternity leave, even at Osaka University. I feel as though there is an atmosphere that opposes men who take paternity leave, one that makes taking paternity leave difficult. I think it's also important to create a work environment in which it's natural for men to take paternity leave.

MURAKI: Actually, we are currently implementing a trial at the Ministry of Labour, Health and Welfare. Each month, men with newborn children are called to the Minster's Office with their superiors, and the Minister himself urges the men to take paternity leave. I'm curious to see whether or not this trial will be successful.

Creating an Environment in which Individuals Can Overcome Disability and Long Term Care and Be Successful

NISHIO: Cooperating with those individuals with disabilities is another large challenge in realizing a diverse environment. At Osaka University, the Eco Rangers, a team that was started in order to employ individuals with intellectual challenges and physical challenges, work to keep our campuses clean. I especially admire their hard work outdoors under the blazing summer sun and in the cold of winter. I'm currently thinking about taking a new direction through other varieties of activity, such as those in art and other creative work, in order to draw out their individuality and hidden potential.

MURAKI: After Lehman’s collapse, the employment environment worsened, leading to the termination of employment for a large number of workers with disabilities. In these circumstances, internships for those with intellectual challenges were started in Osaka. These were implemented into the national system, and a system for 3-month trial employment was created. Most people thought that these individuals would just have their employment terminated after 3 months, but in fact, about 80 to 90% of these workers were officially employed after this trial period, going completely against expectations. Working together with individuals with challenges saw a big change in people's awareness towards them. In Osaka, there are a large number of high quality endeavors to develop those with intellectual challenges to be able to run convenience stores or express their talent in modern art.

NISHIO: In recent years, problems in long term care have become very serious. What sort of plans are you considering with regards to these issues?

MURAKI: Long term care is a long battle, so in order for those individuals to be able to withstand it, I think it's necessary to have systems where employees can work shorter hours with no overtime and have a system in which taking paid holidays is more flexible, allowing them to take time off at a steady pace. When men are involved in long term care, there are often cases where they have no one to consult with, so it is important to create systems in which we can watch over the situation of each individual very carefully. It's also necessary to involved the region in making an environment that eliminates the necessity of people to leave their jobs to provide long term care, so moving forward, I think this will become a topic of research for industry-government-university collaboration.

NISHIO: I'd like to make use of our talk today to improve the diverse environment at Osaka University and provide comprehensive support in ensuring that the individuality of its diverse employees, regardless of gender, nationality, disability, or sexual orientation is respected and their success is promoted.

MURAKI: I think the most important condition for being able to realize a diverse environment is the leadership of the individuals at the top. Through our talk today, I am sure that I can expect great things from Osaka University moving forward. I hope that I can be of use as a Visiting Professor.

NISHIO: I'd like to thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to join me today. We're taking the initiative to create an environment where the individuality of every member of the university can shine through, so I hope you will continue to support Osaka University in the future as well.

MURAKI Atsuko
Visiting Professor at the Osaka University Center for Gender Equality Promotion. Ms. Muraki graduated from the Department of Economics at Kochi University, after which she entered the Ministry of Labour (now Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) in 1978. She served as Deputy Director-General for Policy Evaluation in the Minister's Secretariat (Equal Employment, Children and Families), Director of the Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau, Director General for Policies on Cohesive Society in the Cabinet Office, and Director of the Social Welfare and War Victims' Relief Bureau in the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, after which she served as Vice Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, only the second woman to serve in this position and the first in 16 years. In June 2016, Ms. Muraki was appointed as an Outside Director at Itochu Corporation.

NISHIO Shojiro
President Shojiro NISHIO graduating from the Kyoto University Faculty of Engineering in 1975 obtained his doctorate degree in engineering from the Graduate School at Kyoto University in 1980. After serving as an assistant at the Kyoto University Faculty of Engineering, a visiting assistant professor at University of Waterloo, Canada, an assistant professor at the Osaka University School of Engineering Sciences, an assistant professor at the Osaka University Information Processing Training Center, he became a professor at the Osaka University School of Engineering in 1992. After that, he became the first director at the Osaka University Cybermedia Center. Prior to assuming his post as President in August 2015, he served a number of positions such as a professor and dean at the Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, an advisor to the Osaka University President, an executive vice president of Osaka University (2007~2011), and a director at Osaka University Cybermedia Center in 2013. President Nishio specializes in data engineering.

国大協対談バナー(200x60)
Talks Between National University Presidents and Experts (link in Japanese)

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