Masculine public image of science in Japan What keywords do public associate?

Masculine public image of science in Japan What keywords do public associate?

Author: Yuko Ikkatai – The University of Tokyo, Japan


  • Atsushi Inoue – Nippon Institute for Research Advancement, Japan
  • Kei Kano – Shiga University, Japan
  • Euan McKay – The University of Tokyo, Japan
  • Azusa Minamizaki – Nagoya University, Japan
  • Hiromi Yokoyama – The University of Tokyo, Japan

Many studies have examined the public image of science. When asked to draw a picture of a scientist, many people depicted a male scientist in a lab coat. Although the numbers vary by field, in comparison to men, a substantially lower percentage of women study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields in Japan. At the undergraduate level, the percentage of female students is relatively high in biology at around 40%, but is lower than 20% in physics and mathematics and lower than 10% in mechanical engineering. Although science is perceived to be masculine, the attribution of varying levels of masculinity to science fields in Japan has not been examined. Additionally, Japan ranks low (at the 121st position among 153 countries) on the global gender equality index, as per the Global Gender Gap Index 2020. The authors of this paper hypothesize that Japanese people who have low level of gender equal attitudes are likely to have stronger masculine image for the science fields.

This study conducted an online survey to investigate the extent of masculinity accorded by the Japanese people to six science fields: mechanical engineering, physics, mathematics, information science, chemistry, and biology. The questionnaire items focused on individual gender equal attitude toward gender roles and the gender of the respondents. Additionally, public associations were investigated by asking participants to assign keywords for each of the six science fields. The analysis revealed that the Japanese perceived all six science fields as masculine. For example, the keywords “Galileo” and “Einstein” were linked to physics and “oily and greasy” and “welding” were correlated with mechanical engineering. The individual gender and/or gender-related attitudes of respondents also influenced the masculine image accorded to the fields of study.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation