As I have been introducing to you many times in this website (Ref.1,2,3) and elsewhere (Ref.3 is Science Editorial. Other links are in Japanese), many leading universities of the world have invited women as the president and indeed they are doing very well. Today, Cambridge, MIT, and four out of eight Ivy League Universities are having woman presidents. Many of them were invited from outside the University. This was hard to imagine in the past, but maybe one of the earliest example among top universities would be University of Pennsylvania of Ivy League which invited Professor Judith Rodin as their President in 1994.
President Faust of Harvard University visited Japan recently. I was invited to the reception dinner on March 16th. Professor Yoko Ishikura has posted a column in her blog about her impression of this reception and of Dr. Faust which I also share. I have had the honor of seeing and having a short conversation with her at Davos in January, also.
She talked about how Harvard responded to the economic crisis in 2008, what kind of students they are trying to enroll, what sort of courses they are creating to meet the emerging challenges, etc. – the topics were all relevant to us and therefore very interesting. Also, how she answered questions was wonderful. I could clearly see her admirable personality and great ability just by listening to her thoughts or the process of how she executes plans or the way she handled questions and comments from the participants.
President Faust repeatedly talked about her concerns about a very, very low number of Japanese students at Harvard (I hear that there are only five undergraduates now. This is not at all a desireble situation). Currently Japan comes after Canada and the United Kingdom in the total number of alumni of Harvard University including Graduate Schools. But it seems that this apparently will decrease very quickly. It is another aspect of ‘Japan as a secular country’, a theme which I write about so often.
Dr. Faust said that she is aiming to benefit from every opportunity to talk to students, especially female high school students, because her uniqueness as first female Harvard President would be by itself aspiration to them. This time also, she had such an opportunity and told us how wonderfully students responded. I was impressed by her deep understanding of her position and special roll she has in this global society.