Japan Airlines (JAL) named its first female president on Wednesday, a former flight attendant who rose through the ranks to senior management, taking a deeply symbolic step in a country struggling to close a vast gender gap at work.

Mitsuko Tottori, a senior managing executive officer who joined JAL in 1985, the year it suffered one of the worst crashes in airline history, will become president from April 1, the firm said in a statement.

The appointment comes as Japanese companies face increasing pressure to boost gender diversity and tackle a gender pay gap that is the worst among the Group of Seven nations and almost double the average of the OECD grouping of advanced economies.