Chika Kako was recently promoted to second-in-command in Toyota’s luxury Lexus division. This vertical move makes her the only woman among the automaker’s 53 top managers, which she achieved by climbing Toyota’s corporate ladder for the last 30 years. To Kako, her success is due to her individuality, not her gender.
“To be honest, I never really thought about approaching my work from the point of view of being a woman,” stated in an interview at Toyota’s Nagoya office. “My mission has always been to just speak my mind.”
Kako’s historical achievement is a beacon of light for women’s progress in Japan’s automobile industry, and she is a role model to young women engineers who aspire to reach her success. Japan has had slow growth in getting women into top level positions overall, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for women’s economic empowerment.
Women’s representation is especially low in the auto industry, which remains dominated by men. Nissan Motor Co. ranks highest in gender equality with women comprising 10 percent of domestic managers, compared to 2 percent at Toyota.
Hopefully, Kako’s new appointment is just the beginning to a concerted effort of increased gender diversity in the auto industry. In her new position, Kako is determined to broaden Lexus’s vision while still keeping true to what makes the brand unique.
Kako also shared a fresh perspective on marriage and maintaining a work/life balance. She mentions that she has been single since starting her career at Toyota: “I just didn’t have a chance to get married,” she said. “Maybe in the future, why not? I don’t think it’s good to just focus just on your job and not have any experience outside work.”
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