Re: Unhappy being pushed to test
I agree that grading is subjective and people do get promoted in consideration of other factors than pure skill, but skill still plays a major role in the decision from what I've seen. What I have seen is a person who contributes to the welfare of the dojo and students through his efforts, putting in hard work and demonstrating a commitment to the dojo, receiving the benefit of the doubt on some occasions. What I was referring to was being promoted primarily on the basis of an unchangeable quality such as gender or race.
You are fortunate in retaining students. I hear sensei in most of the martial arts here complaining about student retention and have read numerous articles and blogs about the problem. It seems to be endemic here in the States. I don't understand the cause, but certainly see the effect here.
Finally, having quality seniors, male and female is certainly an advantage to a martial arts school. I've seen, and trained with many skilled and talented female seniors that I greatly admire and wish to emulate. They make terrific role models for all the junior students without question. The thrust of my comment was keyed to the word "artificial". By that I was trying to convey that promoting a person beyond her skill level simply for the sake of gender would be self-defeating to the school.