Conohana-san of the Month May edition (Part 1)
In ‘Conohana-san of the Month’, we discuss the experiences of senior female researchers who have successfully managed to balance their research/work with life events such as childbirth, child care and family care.
Today’s interview is with Dr. Miyoshi Okamura, an associate professor in the faculty of Information MechatronicsEngineering of the University of Yamanashi. She is also an alumna of Nashidai. Moreover, she was the very first female student in the department of Civil Engineering of the faculty of Engineering of this university! There’s an endless story of her hardships in those days…I was lucky to have been born later～^^;。
◎Introduction of Dr. Miyoshi Okamura
Specialty: Structural Engineering; Earthquake Engineering; Maintenance Management Engineering (Steel structural engineering); Traffic Engineering; National Land Planning (Universal design of pedestrian space / Development of welfare town); Rehabilitation Science; Welfare Engineering (Universal designology); Gender (Gender equality in the field of civil engineering); Science Education (Design education / Problem solving).
Organizations: *Domain of Social System Engineering (Information mechatronics engineering), Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering (Division of Engineering); *Division of Information Mechatronics Engineering, Faculty of Engineering;
*Civil and Environmental Engineering Major, Department of Education, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering Science; *Sustainable and Environmental Engineering Major, Department of Education, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering Science. *University of Yamanashi
・Dr. Okamura, I’d like to thank you again for your constant cooperation with us!
I feel a little embarrassed to formally make an interview with you because you have been with us on many occasions to support us. Please be kind!
Firstly, you entered the Faculty of Engineering –the department of Civil Engineering!– of this university … 37 years ago (isn’t her age calculable?). Even now female students in science courses are a minority, but back in those days, the number was much smaller, wasn’t it?
It was not even a minority, I was just the “only female student” in the Faculty of Engineering. In the department of Civil Engineering, I was one of 60 students. I learned after I entered university that I was the first female students in the department. I was surprised to hear that, but it seemed that the faculty staff had been much more surprised (lol).
・You were a pioneer who jumped into a “Man’s world”! Brave women like you have changed our society, making women more active in the field of science. We are truly grateful. May I ask what in the world made you decide to become “a pioneer of Dobo-jo (female students in the civil engineering course)”?
Oh, no, I never wanted to be “a pioneer of Dobo-jo” when enrolling at university (lol). I was a child who loved reading, manual arts and sports, and didn’t hesitate to play soccer with boys, or get interested in judo. My parents were worried about my interests not being so girlish…
In my high school, female students were already a minority regardless of the humanities or the science courses. I held an admiration for manufacture and architecture, and I wanted to work irrespective of being a woman or a man, so I chose the science course, where there were less girls.
My homeroom teacher had the opinion that “if a girl goes on to the science course, the chemical course is to be recommended”, but I was not good at chemistry and didn’t get that advice… so I looked for a course related to architecture in universities in my home town, Yamanashi, and found the department of civil engineering of this university.
But I had never known how much the world of civil engineering was a “Man’s world” until I started to study.
・In a way, not knowing it enabled you to jump into that world (lol). What kind of “Man’s world” was it actually?
Not only when I entered university but also until I graduated, I was the only one female student in the civil engineering department. As a student, I became a member of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers, and on its journal, there were articles with titles such as “The First Female Associate Professor was Born in XX University” or “Arrival of a Female Engineer!”
When I went to an inspection tour at a tunnel construction site, I was not allowed to enter the site just because I was a woman. I had known the saying “The goddess of the mountain is jealous and when a woman enters a construction site she brings about accidents“, but I was really disappointed to know that this saying was actually respected.
At the time I started job hunting, there was not an “Equal Employment Opportunity Act”, so most recruiting ads openly wrote “Male only”…
・It seems the situation and the sense of “minority” were far different from now. Now the sense of gender equality has been promoted, and if female students are not allowed to inspect tunnel construction, they may react against it saying “Huh?! (almost going nuts)”, but it must have been difficult in those days when the society and the industry regarded such things as normal.
I persuaded myself to accept such things in those days. But it’s really hard when you are rejected because of your gender or age, which you cannot change. It’s beyond one’s control. Not knowing what to do, it almost made me cry.
・But, Doctor, they are things of the past, aren’tthey?
Of course! I must emphasize that this was an old story, and the prospecting Rike-jos and Dobo-jos should not receive a negative image of the course from my story! Today it is different! ヾ(･ω･`;)ﾉ(Oops!)
Regarding the female’s entrance into tunnel construction site, I learned that the Labor Standard Act had forbidden it. So I worked for the country to lift it, together with the members of “The Society of Women Civil Engineers”. The act was revised in 2007, and now you can inspect inside tunnels under construction regardless of gender, and some women are working on-site as engineers.
Look at this graph! This is an age-based composition of the Society of Women Civil Engineers. Don’t you think that the young members are rapidly increasing? Recently civil engineering companies positively employ women!
・I tried to follow her up, but let’s have some break (lol). Next time we’re going to listen to her glorious activities. Don’t miss it!