Executive Officer, General Counsel, Itochu Corporation Joined Itochu as a corporate lawyer in 2000. At the age of 46, was appointed the company's youngest-ever executive officer in April 2013.
In April 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with representatives of the business community to exchange ideas on growth strategy. In order to realize his goal of having no less than 30 percent of leadership positions filled by women by 2020, Prime Minister Abe told those in attendance that he “would like all listed companies to proactively appoint women to executive and managerial positions.” The prime minister added that, as a start, he would like each of these companies to appoint one female executive officer.
In response to Prime Minister Abe’s leadership in striving to create a new future for Japan, female executives who embody the ideals behind womenomics are beginning to emerge at major companies.
One woman attracting attention as one of the first female executives at a large trading company is Ms. Mitsuru Chino, an executive officer at Itochu Corporation. Ms. Chino joined Itochu as a corporate lawyer at the age of 33. There were those who questioned her decision to give up a career as partner at an international law firm to move to a private corporation in Japan, but Ms. Chino had no doubts: “The chance to enter such a dynamic world, work globally in a wide range of fields, and find new challenges together with my division really spoke to my heart,” she says.
The year 2003 became a major turning point for Ms. Chino, as the World Economic Forum placed her on its list of 100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow. “The chairman asked me why I thought I had been selected,” she recalls. “It gave me the chance to take a good look at the way I wanted to live my life.” Ms. Chino says that, until that point, her guiding principle had been “doing what I wanted to do,” but she realized that she needed to consider how she could contribute and examine “what is required of me by my organization and by those around me.”
In April 2013, Ms. Chino was appointed as an executive officer at the age of 46. Having decided in her heart to take any opportunity that came her way, she says that she had no hesitation in accepting the offer.
Nearly 30 years have passed since Ms. Chino began her career in 1986, the same year that Japan’s Equal Opportunity Employment Law came into effect. She is part of a generation of women who have carved out their careers at a time of growing female participation in society. “In many places and in many fields, the women of Japan have been gathering their strength, and now they are preparing to fly,” she says. “I have great belief in the government’s advocacy of a society in which women can truly shine.”
A Proud Procession of Female Executives
In April 2014, Japan Airlines (JAL) appointed Ms. Hoshiko Nakano to the dual roles of executive officer and senior vice president in charge of the company’s Western Japan Headquarters.
Ms. Nakano joined JAL’s international sales division in her 20’s, and what she achieved fromher dedication to accommodating business partners’ needs gained her recognition as one of the company’s top female employees, and she became an inspiration to her female colleagues. In her forties, she oversaw a number of large-scale projects, including the introduction of Japan’s first standardized system of air-fare pricing. “The company has given me a position of great responsibility, so I give my all to see every task through to a satisfactory conclusion,” Ms. Nakano explains. “This company is working toward greater equality and has set targets for increasing the number of women in management positions. Having more female leaders will create new company values and a new corporate culture, revitalizing the whole organization and ultimately making it more competitive in the marketplace.”
April 2014 also saw the first appointment of a female head by a Japanese bank, when Ms. Chie Shinpo became president of Nomura Trust and Banking. Ms. Shinpo joined Nomura Securities in 1989 and spent time in the firm’s Capital Markets Department and Secretarial Office before she was appointed an executive officer at Nomura Holdings at the age of 46. Two years later, she became president of Nomura Trust and Banking.
Tokyo Electric Power Company also recently appointed its first female executive officer, Ms. Rieko Sato. In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Ms. Sato worked to provide guidance on financial support and compensation to victims of the disaster.
At Daiwa Securities, Ms. Keiko Tashiro is also drawing attention for the way she built up overseas experience before being appointed corporate executive officer and executive managing director in charge of the firm’s operations in the United States.
In May 2014, Ms. Chino and Ms. Shinpo were joined by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Women in Business Summit in Tokyo, where many female professionals from Japan and the United States came together to exchange ideas.
With a highly motivated female workforce that also boasts increased experience in seniormanagement roles, it would not be an overstatement to say that these women are helping Japan to realize its as-yet untapped potential for growth.
Japan Airlines, Executive Officer and Senior Vice President, Western Japan Headquarters
Tokyo Electric Power Company, Executive Officer, TEPCO Customer Service Company, Vice President