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Number of women in Japan Inc. upper management rises, but still far below global average

JIJI

Just over 30 percent of Japan’s top 500 companies in terms of market capitalization now have at least one woman in a senior management position, a recent Jiji Press survey has found.

A total of 152 of the companies have at least one female board member or auditor. The firms employ 192 women in either role, filling a mere 2.6 percent of the positions.

The survey covered companies listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section whose business years end in December, January, February or March.

The results for fiscal 2014, which began in April, represented a slight improvement from the previous year, when 23 percent of the surveyed firms had a female presence in upper management. That year, women accounted for 2.0 percent of all board members and auditors at the surveyed companies.

In a 2013 survey, conducted by U.S. research firm GMI Ratings, the proportion of companies with female representation on their boards averaged 63 percent in 45 countries, with women accounting for 11 percent of all board seats.

The Japanese results were far below the international average. In addition, firms in Japan rely heavily on people invited from outside companies for their boards. Those coming from outside accounted for 88 percent of all female board members or auditors at the 500 Japanese companies.

Among the 500 firms, Bridgestone Corp. and Lawson Inc. were tops in terms of the number of women in upper management. Each had three female board members and one auditor.

Thirty-six companies invited women for the first time to join upper management. Mizuho Financial Group Inc.’s board is chaired by Hiroko Ota, professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, while at food maker Kagome Co. , Miyo Myoseki, president of seasonings maker Marutomo Co., serves as a board member.

Under the revised economic growth strategy announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month, the government has asked major firms to disclose information on female representation in management.

The latest survey found that 23 companies, including NTT Corp., disclosed such information voluntarily, up from eight companies in the previous year.

Female representation in the top management of Japanese firms “still remains very low,” said Mariko Kawaguchi, analyst at the Daiwa Institute of Research.

“But I can see signs of efforts by companies in the fact that (the number) increased from the previous year.”

The revised growth strategy “will serve as a tailwind,” she added.