Women outperform men after Japan medical school stops rigging exam scores

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Photograph: imagenavi/Getty Images

Women have outperformed their male counterparts in entrance examinations for a medical school in Japan that last year admitted rigging admission procedures to give men an unfair advantage.

Juntendo University in Tokyo said that of the 1,679 women who took its medical school entrance exam earlier this year, 139, or 8.28%, had passed. The pass rate among 2,202 male candidates was 7.72%.

It was the first time in seven years that the pass rate among women was higher than among men, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

The university attributed the exam results to its decision to “abolish the unfair treatment of female applicants” after last year’s revelations.

Related: Tokyo medical school 'changed test scores to keep women out'

Juntendo was one of several medical schools that were found to have manipulated exam results to give first-time male applicants an advantage over women and others who had previously failed the exam.

The dean of the medical school, Hiroyuki Daida, initially attempted to justify the practice, saying women matured faster than men and had better communication skills. “In some ways, this was a measure designed to help male applicants,” he told reporters.

The sexist admissions policy drew widespread criticism after the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper revealed in August last year that Tokyo medical college had rigged exam scores for more than a decade to favour male candidates, citing concerns that women who went on to become doctors would leave the profession to have children.

Last month, the medical school said female applicants had performed slightly better than men this year after gender-based anomalies in the admissions procedure were removed.

The pass rate among women at Tokyo medical school was 20.4%, 0.4 percentage points higher than among male candidates, the university said, according to the Japan Times. The success rate the previous year, when the discriminatory marking practice was still in place, was just 2.9 % for women and 9% for men.

In 2016, women accounted for just 21.1% of all doctors in Japan, the lowest level among nations belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Among G7 countries, Britain had the highest proportion, at 47.2%, followed by Germany, France and Canada.

The medical school scandal reinforced claims of institutional sexism in the Japanese workplace and education, frustrating efforts by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to create a society “in which women can shine”.

While women’s representation in the workplace is rising, Japan compares poorly with other countries in promoting women to senior positions. Many female employees face discrimination when trying to return to work after giving birth.