“Girls, Be Ambitious!”

Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and OIST Foundation support educational ecosystem for girls and women in STEM

girls be ambitious banner

On International Women’s Day 2022, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) and the OIST Foundation are launching the “Girls Be Ambitious*” initiative.

“Girls, Be Ambitious!” will empower a generation of girls in science by creating an educational ecosystem that fosters young women’s interest in and access to science education. Based at OIST in Okinawa, the goal is to encourage girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and see the concept resonate throughout Japan and around the globe.

“Girls Be Ambitious” has global support. From Hawai’i, the Matsuro and Tsuruko Nakasone Endowment Fund was established at the OIST Foundation with donations valuing $100,000 from the Nakasone family to help underwrite this initiative. Matsuro and Tsuruko Nakasone went to Hawaii in the early 1900s, married, worked hard, supported their families in Okinawa and Hawai’i and sent six children to college—five in STEM and one in accounting. After they passed on, their son, Bob, established the Fund at the OIST Foundation to honor his parents’ commitment to education and their Okinawan heritage by providing support for Okinawan youth and Okinawa’s future.

With initial support from the Nakasone family and other individuals in Hawai’i, OIST and the OIST Foundation seek support from other individuals, philanthropies, and corporations, to grow the “Girls Be Ambitious®” initiative and to build exciting opportunities for girls to pursue science. Whereas “Boys, Be Ambitious!” came from the northern island of Hokkaido, “Girls, Be Ambitious!” stems from the southern-most island of Okinawa, where it also seeks to empower a generation through education and science. 

Educational Impact

 “Girls Be Ambitious” will empower participation in STEM by girls and young women. There are several projects at OIST:

  • The high school science outreach workshop, HiSci Lab, engages female high school students in science experiences as well as sharing of personal journeys by professional female scientists. 
  • The SHIMA program, funded by OIST and the US Consulate General of Naha, and individual donors from the Worldwide Uchinanchu Business Network in Hawai’i, partners with other institutions to engage Okinawan high school students to explore island sustainability through an SDG lens, which includes gender equality.
  • A new partnership between OIST and SKY Labo (a STEM education Japanese non-profit organization) funded by the United States-Japan Foundation, will integrate OIST PhD students as “near-peers” to joining female high school participants from Okinawa and wider Japan at hands-on design-thinking workshops.
  • The recently launched 50:50 Campaign led by OIST’s Graduate School is taking a multi-pronged approach to achieve equal gender representation across the spectrum in OIST’s student population at admissions, retention, and graduation stages.

Through these programs, and more in the future, “Girls, Be Ambitious” will create an educational ecosystem that will help our society be more productive and inventive because women are engaged in science.



 “Boys, Be Ambitious!” (「少年よ大志を抱け Shōnen yo, taishi o idake」) is a phrase known throughout Japan and is generally attributed to Dr. William Smith Clark and his time in Hokkaido. From 1876 to 1877, Dr. Clark advised the Government of Japan in building the Sapporo Agricultural College (present day Hokkaido University) as part of the country’s modernizing efforts.

“Boys, Be Ambitious!” and its background are taught in Japanese school textbooks and are popular throughout Japan. The expression is said to have come from Clark’s final remarks upon leaving the country: "Boys, be ambitious! Be ambitious not for money or for selfish aggrandizement, not for that evanescent thing which men call fame. Be ambitious for that attainment of all that a man ought to be.”

While there are variances in understanding the history of the phrase, it remains well known in Japan and is often taught in school textbooks, used in conversation, and seen throughout the country.


*The OIST Foundation located in Irvington, New York, has been granted a trademark to use the term “Girls Be Ambitious” for education programs by the Japanese Patent Office.

About OIST Foundation

The Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Foundation, Inc. (OIST Foundation), a New York-based 501-c-3 non-profit organization, promotes innovative global scientific breakthroughs through enhancing and strengthening science and technology research and related programs at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and empowers Americans to support the sustainable development of Okinawa and deepen U.S.-Japan relations through OIST.

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