Teresa Mathew
Updated July 15, 2015 4:07 am

Women and science should go together like protons and electrons. But while women make up 47% of the US workforce, they are unrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields—only 27.9% of environmental scientists and 8.3% of electrical engineers are women. Japan has a similar problem; according to the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, women only account for 14% of students in STEM fields. Part of the problem is that while women are shown to have interest in STEM fields at an early age, that interest rarely leads to majoring or working in those areas—a problem due largely to entrenched gender roles, a lack of support, and a significant lack of representation of women in the sciences.

In an effort to combat this, Knowledge Hands (a Japanese employment support company) has created the Rikejo (RKJ) Café, which opened last month. The name “rikejo” comes from the Japanese word “rikei-joshi”, which means ‘science women.’ The café, which is located in Tokyo, was created so that young women interested in science would have a space to collaborate, mentor, and work with each other.

Open Saturdays and Sundays, it offers free admission, drinks, Wifi, and monitors for any female science student whether they’re in junior high or at a university (other customers will be charged about $2.50 for admission). It also has various programs for patrons; the Kodansha Rikejo project is a mentorship program which looks to match students with professional women in the sciences. And the café holds workshops and events that tackle issues like how to be assertive in a field and how to find mentors.

The staff is composed entirely of female science students whose uniform is (fittingly) a white lab coat. In keeping with the café’s emphasis on science, drinks like the Yogurt Lassi are served in beakers with colorful test tubes of fruit sauces on the side.

The lack of representation of women in science and tech fields is often overlooked as a serious reason why more women don’t go into STEM. By offering young women a place where they can learn from and be supported by each other, the RKJ Café will hopefully inspire its visitors to keep studying and working in what they love.

(Image via Facebook)