Japan’s central bank just appointed its first woman executive director in 138 years.
Tokiko Shimizu, a 55-year-old banker, was appointed as part of a sweeping reshuffle at the Bank of Japan, becoming one of a team of six executives responsible for running the central bank’s daily operations.
Shimuzu started working for the Bank of Japan in 1987. She took up roles in the financial markets division and in foreign exchange operations, and was general manager for Europe and chief representative in London between 2016 and 2018.
The Bank of Japan was established in October 1882.
Women make up 47% of the central bank’s workforce but only 13% of senior managerial posts and just 20% of expert positions dealing with legal affairs, payment systems and bank notes, according to the bank’s own data.
Women have been represented on its policy board — the highest decision-making body responsible for setting monetary policy —since it was established in 1998. But only one of the board’s nine members is a woman, and the bank has never had a woman governor, unlike the Federal Reserve or European Central Bank.
Over the past decade, demographic challenges and the growing number of women in higher education has slowly begun to change Japan’s male-dominated management structures.
But while women account for 51% of the Japanese population, according to 2018 World Bank data, the country is ranked 121 out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s latest global gender gap index.
The country also ranks at the bottom among the G7 countries for gender equality, according to the WEF, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge to empower working women through a policy called “womenomics.”