HomeLearning CenterAs Japan Struggles With Gender Equality, Record Number of Women Appointed to Cabinet

As Japan Struggles With Gender Equality, Record Number of Women Appointed to Cabinet

Originally published by Isabel Reynolds for Time Magazine

Five women feature in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s new cabinet lineup, up from the previous two and equaling a previous record, yet the influx may not point to a gender equality breakthrough in a country that struggles to appoint female leaders in most fields. 

Most prominent among the new appointments is Yoko Kamikawa, a veteran former Justice Minister who becomes the country’s first woman foreign minister in almost two decades. Kamikawa, 70, is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“This is a giant step forward,” for a country that lags on appointing women to corporate leadership positions, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said of the appointments in a phone interview. He welcomed Kamikawa’s selection as foreign minister, describing her as “very capable.”

Yet while Minister for Economic Security Sanae Takaichi retained her spot in the cabinet, the other three women were appointed to relatively low-profile positions in charge of policy for children, post-disaster reconstruction and regional revitalization.

Kishida kept men in the main finance and trade roles, in line with a pattern of excluding women from the types of jobs that open the way to taking over as prime minister. Japan has never had a female finance minister and its last female chief cabinet secretary left the post more than 30 years ago.

The limited progress partly reflects an overall dearth of women in Kishida’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party — only 8% of its lawmakers in the legislature’s powerful lower house are female, even less than the 10% across all parties. 

Back to News