There's one university tradition in Japan that worth mentioning—it's bringing back successful graduates to teach specialty courses related to their current work.
Ms. Kanako Kimura and Ms. Seira Takemoto, both graduates of Chuo University’s Precision Mechanics Department, are two such women. Ms. Kimura works at the Hamura R&D Center of Casio Computer Co. Ltd.; Ms. Takemoto at the large-sized RAC Development Division (Air Conditioner Products) at Fujitsu General Ltd.
During a recent new year’s party for university instructors from the business world, I learned that both were passionate about efficiency in product design; the best possible relation between man and machine: how to design in such a way that makes the lives of people better off, the environment better off, and the world as a whole (literally, the earth itself with all the people living on it) better off.
Ms. Kimura of Casio designs internal and external parts of consumer products, Ms. Takemoto of Fujitsu designs enclosures for large and efficient air-conditioning units for overseas use.
As they were talking about their work, I told them about a time when I was working part-time in the electronics section in a department store, many years ago when we stocked typewriters (remember those?). One man came to the counter, pointing to one and informed me that he designed the space bar; he excitedly showed me how the curve in the design prevented injury in its daily operation. I never saw a space bar the same way again. The women agreed that this is what made their work worthwhile. I hope the next time you use a product you can think about all thought that went into its design to make your daily life better.
The title of the course of their special lecture on precision engineering is "From the 2nd design until the product is born—the role of mechanical design and its technology." During those lectures, they talk about their work experiences and satisfaction in knowing that what they do matters. I believe that if more girls and young women knew this, more would major in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
As a girl and later woman, I had always loved the sciences; however, few women were in my classes and sometimes I was the only girl in the class. Many thought I was a bit odd and I will never forget what one fellow student in calculus said to me: men were from Mars, women were from Venus, but I had no planet to describe where I was from. I transferred out to a university that had more women. I am currently teaching graduate students in the precision mechanics department. Unfortunately, there are still too few women in engineering. I hope to encourage more to enroll in the engineering program and discover the joy there.