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Japan Inc. scrambles to find female directors

Lack of internal candidates forces companies to look outside for talent

From left, Yuko Makino of Otsuka Holdings; Teiko Kudo, nominated to the Toyota board; and Noriko Tojo, also from Otsuka

TOKYO -- Four out of five listed companies in Japan have no women on their boards of directors. This puts the country in company with Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates as one of the worst when it comes to diversity.

Granted, Japan Inc. is increasingly willing to place women in high positions, motivated by pressure from the Shinzo Abe government and studies indicating that companies with more women perform better. But businesses are running into another problem: They have few internal candidates, having long failed to elevate female employees into senior management, and having done little to fix the country's historically wide gender gap in promotions and pay.

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