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Japan’s financial regulator is hiring more female college graduates next year as career bureaucrats than male ones, in a rare move highlighting the government’s efforts to improve gender parity in policymaking.

Women account for eight of the 14 fresh bureaucrats planning to join the Financial Services Agency in April, said Hiroshi Okada, head of the regulatory office’s secretary division, in an interview. It will mark the first time since the FSA was created in 2000 for such female officers to outnumber their male counterparts.

Japan placed 120th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2021 rankings, behind Angola and Myanmar, reflecting how women tend to struggle to reach leadership posts in many sectors. Of the nation’s national government offices that typically hire 10 or more graduates every year as bureaucrats, the foreign and justice ministries have been the only ones where female entrants outnumbered men at least once during the past decade, according to the Cabinet Secretariat.

Women comprised 4.2% of Japan’s highly ranked bureaucrats as of July, and 6.4% of those holding director-level jobs, Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs data showed. The bureau has been calling on government ministries and agencies to proactively recruit women to raise those ratios to 8% and 10% respectively by March 2026.

The limited representation of women in leadership positions is partly due to the absence of adequate help in the past for them to balance work and family life, which has caused some officials to quit after giving birth. Japanese government offices also used to hire even fewer female graduates.

While the FSA doesn’t have many female managers yet, the number of women serving as deputy directors — a key post for relatively young bureaucrats that leads to senior jobs — is increasing, the agency’s Okada said. “Should they keep building their careers, there could be more female executives in the future, including directors and director generals,” he said.

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