This is my first post here, so I hope it will be helpful and not seen in the wrong light. I'm trying to add something which I think is missing thus far in the discussion, and that is why this subject does matter so much in a dojo. In fact, one could almost say, especially in a dojo. I can't speak for all women, but I think many people do not understand just how difficult it can be for a woman to practice aikido. Many of us are entering for the first time a situation where we have to physically relate to other people, and that is frightening. We are experiencing confrontation, and learning to deal with it in a mode of both insecurity and low confidence in our physical abilities. This is a difficult situation, but it can be dramatically improved by the presence of other women in the dojo. The point I wish to make, and hope you will try to understand, is how important it is for many women to see other women in aikido- those who have come through the same difficulties and become better people for it.
When I began practicing aikido, there were no women of any rank in the dojo. I found aikido to be a wonderful thing, but it was difficult to realize that I seemed to be the only one going through a kind of emotional struggle. I sought out anything I could read about women in aikido, or women in any martial art, and this helped me tremendously. I realized that all these women had experienced the same things as I was feeling. One of the best things I ever did was attend a seminar with a female sensei. Unfortunately, this opportunity does not come around often, because it inspired me with a wonderful confidence in myself and my aikido. This woman has become one of my role models, and someone whom I greatly admire.
One of the classes I attend is taught at a university, where every few months we have brand new students of aikido. I have noticed that often the female students will look to me first (as someone who looks like she might know a little) for help and for a partner. It is much more comfortable for them to have another woman present. It seems to me that the dojo should be a place where we are comfortable, and where we all seek to help each other. If students wish to learn, I think it is the responsibility of everyone in the dojo to encourage them and extend their "aikido love." It is precisely because everyone needs encouragement that we need women to be visible in aikido.