Conohana-san of the Month May edition (Part 2)
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.
◎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
・In part 1 of the interview, you talked about the time when the number of female students of the science course were definitely small. Although facing unreasonable things such as the law banning women from entering tunnels under construction, you have continued to stay in the world of civil engineering. What is the reason?
One reason is that I love the work of “civil engineering”. Another reason is that I’ve got good friends in “The Society of Women Civil Engineers”. The image of “civil engineering” may differ from person to person, but practically it includes everything from urban development, the building of energy source-related facilities, to the general works of traffic, or accident prevention. Don’t you think it covers a wide area? Some call it work marked on a map, or work to underpin everyday life. It feels good and satisfying to work for society. However, there were many times that I thought about quitting my job. There is “The Society of Women Civil Engineers”, a group of female engineers and researchers working in the field of civil engineering. It is the encouragement from or the sharing of hardships with the friends in this association that has enabled me to stick to my job until now.
・The name “Dobo-jo” is becoming recognized these days, but what kind of jobs can they get?
These slide photos should explain. As I listed earlier, our work includes a large scale of construction, and engineers are involved in various processes of projects, as a civil service, as an employee of a private constructor, or as a consultant. Depending on the subject, they may work for an electric/energy related company, or railway company. They can be researchers, too, who can be engaged in a wider part of a project. After all, becoming a researcher may be recommended (lol).
・By all means! (Thank you for your understanding of our office’s purpose. ^o^)
Presently, you are lecturing on Information Mechatronics Engineering. How are civil engineering and information mechatronics related to each other? (I’m sorry it doesn’t come across clearly.)
My specialty was originally a structural engineering field in civil engineering, but now it is universal design. There’s a definition for universal design, and that is “to design the utmost usable product or environment for people in all levels of age and ability”, and the goal is to create a town or environment where everybody can live by one’s own values. In other words, universal design is a way to solve the problems arising from diverse characteristics of people. I thought I would be able to solve a wider range of problems if the knowledge and the technique of information mechatronics are added to those of civil engineering. (For your reference; Information Mechatronics Engineering is a field of study to create a new integrated system by fusing the knowledge and the technology of machine, electricity and information.)
・I only associated universal design with stationery or cutlery, and I didn’t know it also included town planning. I’ve heard that your encounter with “universal design” made you think over many things, right?
Yes. Not all has been smooth sailing for me. I was often rejected at work just because I was woman, which really discouraged me. I lost confidence, began to deny what I was a woman, thinking “It won’t be good no matter how hard I try..”, or “I’m incapable..”. But after I became involved in universal design, my mindset changed and I began to think “I shouldn’t mind to be different from others, It’s OK to let me be myself.” It made me feel relieved. Then I had opportunities to meet more people and new things, which were thrilling and exciting. It was really enjoyable! Universal design demands the product to be “easy to use” and “easy to understand”. That makes me think of how much it should be convenient, or what the definition of understanding is, etc. It also links what seems to have been irrelevant, and makes me understand them all of a sudden. Universal design is really exciting! (lol)
・Hardships have brought you enjoyment. I can see you are feeling fulfilled.♪ Lastly, please give a message for Rike-jos and Dobo-jos.
Thanks to the encounter with universal design, I became able to be engaged in work related to architecture, which I had longed for in my high school days. I think I was right to have followed what thrilled me and excited me. You may confront obstacles sometimes, but I don’t want you to give up challenging, because the route for the goal is not only one! Also, I wrote a book titled “Endurance is Power: A Career Guidebook for Female Civil Engineers” wishing to support Dobo-jos and Rike-jos. When you are in trouble with decision making, or feeling depressed, this book may be a help. Please read it!
・Thank you very much!
For your information, we purchased and placed the book “Endurance is Power: A Career Guidebook for Female Civil Engineers” in our Support Office. You can view it any time, and even borrow it! For purchase, please contact Dr. Okamura!