Honda Motor, Japan's third largest car maker by volume, has made two new appointments to its Board of Directors. Hideko Kunii, a 66-year-old technology expert, has become the first female executive to join the Japanese company’s all-male board of directors. The other appointment is of Issao Mizoguchi, the senior vice president at Honda South America, making him the first foreigner to hold such a position. Though Issao is of Japanese origin, he was born in Brazil, which technically makes him a foreigner.
A gender-equality advocate and engineering professor from the Shibaura Institute of Technology, Kunii is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and spent a bulk of her career at the Japanese electronics company Ricoh. Mizoguchi on the other hand, has worked with Honda's South American operations for nearly 30 years and will be one of Honda’s 23 operating officers.
Big Japanese companies have been under pressure to diversify their top management, after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year asked all listed companies to have at least one woman among senior executives.
Recently, Honda also took the big step of switching its official language from Japanese to English. Both these steps signal a change in the company’s standpoint which has been drifting from its longstanding traditional business models. Honda is the third Japanese manufacturer after Toyota and Nissan to bring foreigners and women to its board. Though the operating officers' appointments will take effect from April, they have to be approved by shareholders, in June.