Honda names first female, Hideko Kunii, to its board of directors

Article by Anita Panait, on February 26, 2014

In what’s considered to be a milestone, Honda Motor Co. has named its first female board member and promoted a foreigner to a position that no non-Japanese has held. Honda named Hideko Kunii, a professor of engineering and gender-equality promotion at Shibaura Institute of Technology, as part of its 13-member board.

She will take her seat in June, pending approval at Honda general shareholders' meeting. She will be the first female director at a big Japanese carmaker as Honda’s rivals – like Toyota Motor Corp. Nissan Motor Corp. – have never named a woman on their boards. She will also be the second director from outside Honda to serve on the current board, following Nobuo Kuroyanagi.

Honda also promoted Issao Mizoguchi, a Brazilian of Japanese descent, as operating officer leading its South American business. The promotion makes Mizoguchi the highest ranking non-Japanese in Honda’s history, according to spokeswoman Tomoko Takemori.

The appointments underscore Honda's growing reliance on increasingly diverse overseas markets. While Honda was the first Japanese carmaker to assembly cars in the United States, its executive lineup has long been filled with Japanese males. "We chose someone appropriate regardless of the nationality or gender for a broader perspective," a Honda spokeswoman said.

Honda's moves follow the appointment of Mark Hogan as foreign board member in Toyota in 2013. Nissan, meanwhile, boasts of an executive board laden with international managers. Japanese carmakers -- as a standard bearer of Japan Inc. – are sometimes criticized for fixed thinking in their typically all-male, all-Japanese boardrooms.

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