TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's biggest brokerage Nomura Holdings said on Wednesday it has chosen a woman to head its banking arm, in what is believed to be a first for the country's male-dominated financial sector.
The executive, 48-year-old Ms Chie Shimpo, will next month become president of Nomura Trust and Banking, as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls for more women to join the labour force and firms to bring female employees into the boardroom.
None of the nation's three biggest banks - Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui, and Mizuho Financial - have top female executives, according to a government survey.
The Bank of Japan has just one woman on its nine-member board.
Japan has long been notorious for its male-dominated corporate culture and in politics where female representation lags behind other developed nations.
But Mr Abe has pledged to shake up workplace demographics as part of his broader bid to stoke the world's third-largest economy.
The majority of Japanese working women quit after having their first child, according to government data, as long hours and few childcare options often make re-entry into the labour force difficult.
Ms Shimpo, who has an MBA from Stanford University and also graduated from Japan's prestigious Waseda University, joined Nomura in 1989, and became an executive officer in 2012 after working in the share trading and bond department.
She started climbing the executive ladder as Japan's economy sank into a prolonged deflationary slump.
This week, Ms Keiko Tashiro became a director of Daiwa Securities, marking the company's first internal appointment of a woman to its board.
Last year, Canadian Sarah Casanova made headlines when she was chosen to head McDonald's Japan, also joining a small group of foreign-born executives to lead major Japanese companies.