Japan’s central bank just set a positive example for financial institutions across the country.
Bank of Japan promoted Tokiko Shimizuto, making her its first woman executive director in 138 years, according to CNN. An employee at the bank since 1987, Shimizuto became the first female branch manager in 2010. She joined a team of six executives responsible for running daily operations on Monday.
While companies with more diversity perform better, achieving equal gender representation in leadership continues to be a challenge. In many countries, women represent half of the financial services industry, but they are less likely to have support from managers and sponsors to advance in their careers. In the top 20 global financial services firms worldwide, women accounted for 18% of executive committees in 2014, according to the Global Gender Balance Scorecard report.
These disparities are also visible at Bank of Japan, where women make up 47% of the workforce but only 13% of senior leadership, according to the bank.
In recent years, Japan has made a concerted effort to address inequality in the workforce, but it ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index in 2019. Only 1 in 10 women holds leadership positions in the country.
Between the disproportionate amount of unpaid labor women in Japan do — four times more than their male counterparts — and negative attitudes about women in leadership, progress to address the country’s gender imbalance has been slow.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to ensure women make up 30% of leadership roles by 2020 in 2013 through a "womenomics strategy," but has not yet reached his goal. The country still lacks equal political representation and has struggled to narrow its economic gender gap.
To continue to empower women like Shimizuto to take on leadership roles, more political representation, policies to promote economic equity, and efforts to create inclusive workplaces are necessary, according to the World Economic Forum.