Having worked with inspiring women throughout my career, I firmly believe that more women should occupy senior positions and be represented at every level of responsibility at every business, not just in banking, but across the board. It isn't just about fairness; it's about surviving in a global marketplace.
When I began my career with The Bank of Tokyo, a predecessor to the current Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, there were many women in management positions, including several who were general managers. Working in that environment gave me a deep respect for more equal representation in the workplace.
This respect was further strengthened while I was in Hong Kong overseeing banking operations throughout Southeast Asia. There, I met many female executives, government officials, and heads of state, and found that countries like Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and others in the region were leading the world in gender diversity.
Thailand currently has the highest number of female CEOs at 49%, well above the global rate of 24%. By contrast, the G7 economies, including the United States, have just 21% of senior roles filled by women; Japan is at the bottom of the list at 7%.
In order to achieve real progress, more countries need to include women in every rank in business. The entire global mindset must change and environments must be established and supported to create equal opportunities for women as a matter of course, not as a novelty.
This will be no easy task, and part of the solution is to emphasize the economic as well as social reasons why this kind of environment must become the norm and not the exception.
We are seeing some progress across the United States, with a record 24 women helming Fortune 500 companies. But considering that women represent nearly 51% of the U.S. population, there is much room for improvement.
On a more encouraging note, the 7.8 million women-owned businesses as of 2007 represent a 20% increase from 2002, according to the National Women's Business Council.
As the number of women-owned firms climbs, the way we do business must reflect this emerging trend. For example, in today's marketplace, an exclusively male team meeting with a company headed by a woman can't expect to win her banking business. Corporations — and in my case, the bank — must reflect modern society.
To achieve a more equitable work environment, the first step is to set specific targets and be committed to reaching them. Just as Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a goal of filling 30% of management positions with women by 2020, I believe there should be a target of 50% of women in upper management in the United States.
This belief stems from my work at the Bank of Tokyo, where my experiences with women in management underscored the importance of gender equality. And while the Bank of Tokyo was more progressive than its competitors, there was still work to be done.
Thus, I established a department specifically to "career path" women forward, which sent the clear message that if the company needed to create a special initiative to advance women, they weren't doing enough through normal channels. That department has been renamed and is now the Diversity and Inclusion Office at MUFG in Tokyo, headed by a senior female manager.
But the financial services industry is just one piece of the global corporate puzzle. This step cannot be taken alone. We must see this through together as a company, as a nation and across
the world. Only then can we expect more women in the upper echelons of leadership in every facet of our society — from corporations to government leadership.
When this happens, it will be commonplace to anticipate, not hope, that our daughters, nieces and granddaughters, will not only break through the glass ceiling, but destroy it along with the notion of any self-imposed limitations. I look forward to that day.
Katsumi Hatao is the president and CEO of MUFG Union Bank and CEO for the Americas at parent company Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.