That Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new 19-member Cabinet has only one woman — regional revitalization minister Satsuki Katayama — is yet another reminder that his administration's pet policy of promoting the role of women in society has had mixed results at best. The administration, whose Cabinet in 2014 featured a record five female members, has set a target of women holding 30 percent of leadership positions in business, government and political fields by 2020. But the makeup of his latest Cabinet team once again highlights that the gender gap in this country remains most entrenched in the political arena.

Legislation enacted in May with unanimous support in the Diet urged political parties to equalize "as much as possible" the number of male and female candidates they field in national and local elections — although the target is nonbinding and whether it will have any real effect in boosting the presence of women in the male-dominated political community is left up to the voluntary efforts of each party. Despite the government-set target of raising the share of women among all candidates in Diet races to 30 percent, the ratio stood at 17.7 percent in last year's Lower House race. Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party fell behind all other major parties, with women running on the LDP ticket accounting for a mere 7.5 percent of its total.

Women account for 10.1 percent of current Lower House members. This places Japan in an embarrassing 158th place out of 193 countries (either in the lower house or a unicameral system) surveyed by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union — the lowest among Group of Seven countries and eclipsed by China and South Korea. In the face of a limited pool of female lawmakers in his party, Abe apparently chose to reward LDP factions by tapping 12 lawmakers who had never had a Cabinet portfolio — including Katayama — to his new team mostly from the groups that supported his re-election as LDP president last month.