Business / Corporate

Japanese firms under pressure to hire more women as board members

JIJI

Major Japanese companies are increasingly turning to women to fill future positions as board members due to increased pressure from overseas asset management and proxy advisory firms.

Some firms are taking measures to raise awareness among the female workforce, including presenting female staff members with detailed plans for future career paths.

Since last year, U.S. financial services firm State Street Corp., which invests in over 2,000 Japanese companies, has voted against the selection of chairmen and presidents at shareholders meetings if companies have no women on their boards.

Starting in 2021, State Street also plans to oppose the selection of members of board nominating committees at companies with no female board members.

Benjamin Colton of State Street said firms with a lot of female board members tend to post better earnings and produce more innovation, leaving them more likely to survive tough business environments.

U.S. proxy adviser Glass, Lewis & Co. has called on 100 major Japanese firms listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange to appoint female directors this year.

Glass Lewis has recommended its clients oppose the selection of chairmen, presidents and nominating committee heads at companies without women board members. Starting next year, it plans to do more to have women appointed board members.

Approval of Glass Lewis’ recommendations may become widespread, given its strong influence among overseas investors.

The TSE’s corporate governance code also urges companies to employ more women as board members to increase diversity.

The proportion of female executives at listed Japanese firms stands at around 3 percent, far lower than U.S. and European counterparts.

The government has set a goal of increasing the figure to 10 percent by 2020, but this is seen as unachievable due to a lack of female managers who are future candidates for executive positions.

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