Noriko Osumi

Director of TUMUG
Tohoku University Vice President for Public Relations and Promotion of Diversity

Since its founding in 1907, Tohoku University has recognized the importance of human resources. Established as the third national university in Japan, it was the first to accept female students in 1913.

Despite the early encouragement of women in higher education, growth has been slow due to the large proportion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields at the university.

Over the years, the university has looked at ways to reduce the gender gap and in 2001 the Gender Equality Committee was established to raise awareness of inequality and to increase support for female researchers.

Government funded projects initiated to nurture women in science include the “Morinomiyako Women’s Hurdling Project” and the “Morinomiyako Leading Women’s Jump-up Project for 2013″ . The university has also set up an independent budget for this purpose.

In 2013, to mark 100 years since the first female students enrolled at Tohoku University, the following guidelines were created to promote gender equality:

1) Create environments that support a work-life balance
2) Nurture female leadership
3) Support for the next generation of female students
4) An awards system
5) Support for regional collaborations
6) Support for internationalization
7) Development of a strategic framework to promote gender equality

In 2014, the Tohoku University Center for Gender Equality Promotion (TUMUG) was launched with the aim of improving conditions for female researchers. The center works alongside the Gender Equality Committee to implement its policies.

The university recently adopted the Morinomiyako Project for Empowering Women in Research under the Japanese government’s Initiative for Realizing Diversity in the Research Environment programme.

To support all university faculty, staff and students with young children, the university has expanded its childcare services. Two new centers have been opened at Aobayama and Seiryo campuses: Aobayama Midori Nursery School and Hoshinoko Nursery School. Together with Kawauchi Keyaki Nursery School they will accommodate 250 children – the largest figure for a university in Japan.

An awards programme aimed at cultivating top female scholars acknowledges women who engage in outstanding research in the following divisions: Humanities & Social Sciences, Science & Engineering, Agriculture & Life Sciences, and Healthcare (including medicine, dentistry, pharmacy & public health). Additional funding and training for skills development are also provided.

While Tohoku University is widely known as the first university in Japan to allow female students to sit entrance examinations, this was in fact a by-product of a wider policy to diversify the university’s pool of talent and extend admission to applicants from technical and normal high schools. At the time, only male graduates from the old high school system were granted admission and this Open Door Policy was a first in the country.

Last year, Tohoku University was selected as a Designated National University by the Japanese government in recognition of the university’s abilities to lead and shape global education and research. As part of its commitment to internationalization, it will need to increase support for foreign staff and students. It must also improve services for individuals with disabilities.

These changing needs have been reflected in the Vice President’s renewed responsibilities which previously focused on gender equality but have now broadened to use the term diversity.

Tohoku University believes that equality, diversity and inclusion is integral to any successful research university. We look forward to your continued support.


Gender Equality Promotion – Tohoku University Fund

Calling rikejo – A push for more Japanese women of science.

Professor Noriko Osumi – profile

April 2018