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Raising women’s profiles, Cabinet names four as ministry bureau chiefs

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

As part of an ongoing campaign to boost the ranks of female bureaucrats, the Cabinet on Friday appointed four women as bureau chiefs of government ministries, including the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, where women have never been promoted to that level before.

The four are Kazumi Okamura, 56, who will head the Human Rights Bureau at the Justice Ministry; Naoko Munakata, 52, at the Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau in METI; Naoko Saiki, 55, at the Economic Affairs Bureau in the Foreign Ministry; and Yoshiko Ando, 55, in the Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau in the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Okamura, a prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, formerly served as head of legal affairs at the Tokyo office of U.S. securities firm Morgan Stanley.

Saiki, promoted from director-general for cultural affairs at the Foreign Ministry, is the wife of Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki, the ministry’s top bureaucrat.

The appointments were part of the first reshuffle of senior bureaucrats after the Cabinet launched the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs in May to centralize the power to choose elite bureaucrats.

Abe has pledged to raise the percentage of women in leadership positions in every field, including in government, to 30 percent by 2020, arguing such steps will bring more women into the workforce and boost economic growth as the nation’s rapidly aging population shrinks.

“In addition (to bureau chiefs), we’ve decided to appoint more women at senior ministry positions,” such as department chiefs, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

He added that, with the four promotions this time, the Cabinet is trying to realize “the strategic appointment of personnel, active recruitment of women to senior positions and promotion of personnel exchanges between ministries.”