Interview with Ms Kiyoko UEMATSU-ERVASTI

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Tags: Meet the researchers

Kiyoko is a doctoral student at University of Oulu in Finland. Kiyoko’s research examines the process of globalisation of education. She particularly focuses on surveying opinions amongst students in teacher education in Finland and Japan.

She moved back to Japan in November 2015 and is currently finalising her dissertation. She is looking for further employment opportunities where she can share her expertise coordinating research planning with partners in Europe, so don’t hesitate to contact her or us if you are interested!

Kiyoko, please tell us a bit about your current roles and responsibilities, and your international mobility experience?

I am a member of a research group called EDGE (Education, Diversity, Globalization and Ethics) and teach online courses occasionally (e.g. Global citizenship education).

After my husband changed his employer, I moved my research to Norway and Japan. Being away from Oulu, I had established (well at least tried to establish) some network with researchers at local universities. I also made many trips back to Finland. Currently, most of the research supervision is provided online and I am currently finalizing the doctoral research in Japan.

What sparked your interest in science?

There are many factors that have inspired me to pursue a career in research. One of them is my experience working with research-oriented research educators during my MA programme in Finland. That research experience shed light on the innovative part of research work and how it can be a tool to seek, construct and engage with various kinds of ‘possibilities’ that I can be part of, to make a contribution.

Did you have any role models when you were growing up?

Yes– the female Japanese language teacher at my high school for example. I think that they all shared leadership in common.

What made you decide to become a researcher?

The creative and innovative learning process of making a research project inspired me to become a researcher. Doing research also provides tremendous opportunities to work and cooperate with colleagues with different backgrounds (e.g. disciplines, cultures etc), which is very interesting.

What were the greatest challenges that you have faced in your career? Do you think those challenges differ from those of your male colleagues?

Politics in the work place. Understanding differences in expectations when working with diverse groups. Language. Funding. These are the same challenges male colleagues are facing, too.

How would you describe the gender balance in your field? If you have professional experience in several countries, how would these compare?

Female researchers and educators dominate the research field of educational science in Finland in terms of numbers. There are many successful and well-known male educators there, too. On the contrary, I sense from visiting local universities that males dominates the field of educational science in Japan.

What could be done to encourage women to choose a scientific career and to help them progress in this career?

I think that careers in science need to be more visual and contextualised in Japan. Not just the outcome of their findings but the process and insights of any research should be more opened up and transparent to a wider audience. Universities also need to consider becoming more ‘research-oriented’ institutions by encouraging theoretical engagement and praxis. Even at the bachelor’s level, there are many aspects that can be improved to highlight innovative and creative parts of ‘science’ which can help people to make better informed choices in a rational way.

How could women play a specific role in filling the gap between science (research) and society in Japan?

There is a gap between Japanese scholars and scholars abroad, but I sense that it also exists within Japan between top researchers (in science) and others. There is a need for active dialogue to bring together multiple perspectives and I think that female researchers could proactively lead such a process, especially in Japan. Improved English communication skills and intercultural communication might be the key for introducing open access research. International research cooperation should be encouraged, as I sense and know that there are many scholars abroad who are interested in Japan as a place to study, but seeing barriers in making it happen.

Is there any good initiative to promote gender equity from Japan, or another country you've visited as a researcher, that you would like to highlight?

Not an initiative, but expectations in the work place in Finland were inspiring. I believe that independence, responsibility and efficiency are valued amongst employees. This naturally suggests no overtime and the highest priority is given to having a balance with their personal life e.g. family. Therefore, people organise their work and collaborate with others efficiently and flexibly, making for a friendly workplace for employees with families, especially for women.

In your experience, how important is mobility for researchers’ careers and how feasible is this for female researchers?

Without having mobility, I may not have become researcher. Being mobiltiy allowed me to work on my research in three different countries, many different locations, and with colleagues from all over the world. It is an asset and should be of the utmost valuefor researchers in the globalised era. I think mobility is feasible even for female researchers, but it needs support and time for organisation as I have seen many examples in Finland. My female colleague with children have done many short research visits to the U.K. Later, she was invited for a longer research visit, so all her small children and husband moved to U.K. for that period. I heard that it was a great experience professionally and personally for her and her family.

Are there any specific measures that you believe can encourage international mobility of female researchers and scientists?

There could be training opportunities for female researchers, so that they would become potential collaborators for scholars in other countries. More opportunities to attend international conferences can also be the key because that is where ideas for future research projects prosper.

What are your hopes for the next generation of female researchers?

That they become ethically responsible researchers and take active roles in international arena.

How can you (we) pass on your (our) passion for research to the next generation of women?

I would say that stereotypical strategies to promote gender equity is not always necessary. It is more important to embrace diversity and difference (e.g. gender, culture, ethnic, religion) into the field. It is important that researchers and research organisations become critically aware of the current situation and take anactive role in opening up science in Japan.