Japan Airlines appoints first female president, Mitsuko Tottori, in a bid to address gender gap

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In a landmark move, Japan Airlines (JAL) has named Mitsuko Tottori as its first female president, marking a significant step in the company’s efforts to address gender inequality in the workplace. Tottori, a former flight attendant who joined JAL in 1985, will assume the role on April 1, 2024, succeeding Yuji Akasaka.

Tottori’s appointment is seen as a pivotal moment in Japan’s corporate landscape, where women are underrepresented in senior management positions. The country has been facing mounting pressure to improve gender diversity and narrow the gender pay gap, which is the widest among the Group of Seven nations and nearly double the average of the OECD grouping of advanced economies.

During a news conference, Tottori expressed her hope that her appointment would inspire other female employees facing challenges in their careers or personal lives. “There are female employees out there who are struggling with their career steps or going through big life events,” she said. “I hope my appointment as president can encourage them, or give them the courage to take the next step.”

Tottori’s ascent to the top role at JAL comes at a critical time for the airline as it seeks to rebound from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and welcome back tourists to Japan. The airline’s focus on safety has been reinforced following a recent incident at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport involving a collision between a JAL plane and a Japan Coast Guard aircraft. Despite the dramatic nature of the incident, all 379 passengers aboard the JAL plane escaped unharmed.

Highlighting Tottori’s expertise in safety operations and service, JAL emphasized her “high level of insight and field experience.” As part of the leadership transition, current president Yuji Akasaka will assume the role of chairperson while retaining his title as representative director. Meanwhile, Yoshiharu Ueki, the current chairman, is set to retire in April and step down from his director position pending shareholder approval in June.

Looking ahead, JAL has set an ambitious target to increase the representation of women in managerial roles across the group. The company aims for women to make up 30% of managers by the end of the fiscal year ending in March 2026, building on its progress as the corresponding figure reached 22.8% by the end of March 2023.

As JAL prepares for a new era under Mitsuko Tottori’s leadership, her appointment signals a significant milestone in the airline’s commitment to fostering a more inclusive and diverse workplace culture.

(Source: Japan Times | Asahi Shimbun | Nikkei Asia)

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