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Glass Lewis aims to break Japan's glass ceiling

US proxy advisory to turn up heat on companies with no female directors

A Sharp shareholders meeting: Middle-aged men fill most executive positions in Japanese companies. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

TOKYO -- U.S. proxy advisory company Glass Lewis will begin urging -- albeit indirectly -- Japan's 100 leading listed companies to appoint more women to executive posts in 2019.

The firm, which has a significant influence on how foreign investors vote at shareholders meetings, intends to recommend rejecting chairman or president appointments at companies that have no female directors or auditors. 

As a first step, Glass Lewis will take this approach with the 100 large-capitalization stocks comprising the Topix 100 index. It plans to start issuing the recommendation for shareholders meetings to be held in February 2019 and thereafter. 

Twenty-nine Topix 100 companies have no female directors or auditors, including Shin-Etsu Chemical, Toray Industries and Fujifilm Holdings.

Veteran, middle-aged men fill most executive posts in corporate Japan, sparking criticism from overseas investors over a lack of diversity compared with U.S. and European businesses.

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