Bank of Japan gets first female executive director in its 138-year history

Tokiko Shimizu will fill one of the BOJ's nine executive director posts. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - The Bank of Japan has a woman as one of its top officials outside the policy board for the first time in its long history.

Tokiko Shimizu starts a four-year term as executive director on Monday (May 11), the BOJ said in a statement. The 55-year-old central banker will also keep her role as head of the BOJ's Nagoya branch.

Shimizu's appointment as one of the bank's six executive directors, the top rank outside the policy board, is another step forward for gender equality at the BOJ. Still, like many Japanese institutions, the bank lags far behind global peers in promoting women.

Only about 13 per cent of the bank's managers are women, according to the BOJ. Takako Masai, a former executive at Shinsei Bank, is the only woman on the BOJ's nine-member policy board.

A trailblazer at the central bank, Shimizu became its first female branch manager in 2010, when she was picked to run the relatively small Takamatsu branch. She was promoted to head the Nagoya branch in 2018, where she has been in charge of monitoring one of Japan's biggest regional economies, home to Toyota Motor and the centre of the country's auto industry.

"We need to be ready for a severe economic conditions" in the region, Shimizu told reporters last month after a branch manager's meeting.

In a separate personnel change, Shinichi Uchida replaced Eiji Maeda as executive director in charge of monetary policy and financial markets. Uchida will also keep his current role overseeing international affairs.

The decision could affect the BOJ's future monetary policy as whoever holds the post has sway in what tools the central bank uses in expanding stimulus, analysts say.

As a more junior-ranking BOJ official, Uchida played a key role in the bank's decision in January 2016 to adopt negative interest rates - a move that proved hugely unpopular among the public and financial institutions.

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