Japan Airlines (JAL) has scripted history with the appointment of Mitsuko Tottori (59) as its first female president, effective April 1, marking a significant milestone in her illustrious career that began as a cabin attendant in 1985, the same year when JAL witnessed a tragic aviation incident.
Tottori’s ascent to the top executive role underscores Japan’s commitment to addressing gender disparities in the workplace.
Starting as a cabin attendant, Tottori devoted two decades to JAL before progressing to managerial roles. In 2005, she became the manager of the cabin attendant department, eventually attaining a senior management position in 2013. Now, breaking barriers, she takes on the role of president, echoing a global trend as US airline JetBlue appoints its first female CEO, Joanna Geraghty.
In her new leadership position, Tottori aspires to inspire women facing career challenges or life events, stating, “I hope my appointment as president can encourage them, or give them the courage to take the next step.” JAL aims to enhance gender diversity, targeting 30% women in managerial positions by March 2026, a goal set against the backdrop of the current 22.8% representation as of March 2023.
Japan grapples with concerning gender pay gap statistics, standing as the worst among G7 countries with a 22.1% pay gap in 2021, nearly double the OECD average. This stark reality emphasizes the urgency for proactive measures to bridge the gender divide in the Japanese workforce.
The leadership shuffle at JAL involves Yuji Akasaka transitioning to chairperson while retaining the representative director title. Yoshiharu Ueki, the current chairperson, is set to step down in April, awaiting shareholder approval in June.
JAL commended Tottori for her expertise in safety operations and service, a crucial focus amid recent safety concerns following an incident at Tokyo’s Haneda airport involving a JAL plane and a Japanese Coast Guard aircraft.
Mitsuko Tottori’s appointment as JAL’s president signifies not only a personal triumph but also a symbol of progress towards gender equality in corporate leadership, aligning with the global imperative for diverse and inclusive workplaces.