Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday appointed senior bureaucrat Makiko Yamada as his official secretary, the first time in history a woman as ever held the post.
Abe tapped Yamada, a 53-year-old former vice minister at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, as part of his pet policy initiative of promoting the status of women in male-dominated Japan.
“Promoting women’s status is one of the major pillars in promoting our strategies for economic growth,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. “We’d like to tap more women for the Cabinet as a whole.”
Yamada will mainly be in charge of public relations and polices related to gender and population issues, Suga said.
Only the elite of Japan’s career bureaucrats are chosen as secretaries to the prime minister.
With the addition of Yamada, Abe now has seven secretaries. They hail from METI, the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the National Police Agency. Yamada is originally from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
Since his inauguration, Abe has repeatedly stressed the need of improving women’s status and mobilizing more females in the workforce as a key to better economic growth.
Abe has called for a dramatic increase in the number of day care centers to help working mothers. He has also requested major companies to tap more women for top management positions.
In advocating policy measures for women, senior officials in the Abe administration are trying to convince foreign investors of Japan’s potential for more economic growth.
With the aging population expected to keep shrinking, many foreign investors have argued that Japan should address its demographics issues to maintain its potential for economic growth.
Yamada, a graduate of Waseda University and a native of Tokyo, started her bureaucratic career in 1984 at the old Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.