Japan Airlines Co.'s newly appointed top executive Mitsuko Tottori said she will press ahead with diversity in its workplace and businesses, as she looks to devise the carrier's post-COVID growth strategy as its first female CEO.

Tottori said she is confident that JAL will have female employees filling at least 30 percent of all management positions in the year through March 2025, meeting the goal one year ahead of plan.

"Everybody at the company is working toward our shared goal. I don't find it particularly challenging," Tottori said in a recent meeting with a group of media organizations. The figure stood at 29.8 percent as of the end of March this year, she said.

Mitsuko Tottori, the first female president of Japan Airlines Co., gives an interview at the company headquarters in Tokyo on April 22, 2024, her first since assuming the post earlier in the month. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Her appointment on April 1 is unusual in the global airline industry not just because she became JAL's first female CEO but also because she started her career as a flight attendant at Toa Domestic Airlines Co., which was renamed as Japan Air System Co. and later merged with JAL, eventually rising to the top position.

When Tottori joined TDA in 1985, many of her female colleagues left the company after marrying, as few people in their workplace understood why women should continue working after marriage and there were few measures in place to keep married women at work, but she said the situation has changed.

"We have ramped up efforts to make women feel more comfortable working so they can continue their careers after various life events," Tottori said. JAL has introduced measures such as fertility treatment leave and a more flexible promotion system.

Under the current business plan covering five years through March 2026, the airline plans to hire more foreign nationals in Japan and promote measures to have its employees work at firms outside the JAL group on temporary assignments, providing them with new work experiences.

JAL joins the less than 1 percent of major Japanese companies led by women. Of some 1,800 companies listed in the top-tier Prime section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, female presidents accounted for only 0.8 percent as of January last year, according to a joint survey by Kyodo News and Teikoku Databank.

Tottori also follows an increasing number of female top executives named in recent years by airlines in the United States, Europe and other regions such as JetBlue Airways Corp., Qantas Airways Ltd. and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

The industry seeks to improve the gender gap. In 2019, the International Air Transport Association launched the "25by2025" initiative, a voluntary commitment calling on airlines worldwide to increase the number of women in senior positions and underrepresented areas by 25 percent or up to a minimum of 25 percent by 2025.

The new CEO said she wants to boost revenues from non-airline operations, such as the business related to rewards points, to make its earnings base more stable. The airline industry was reeling from a plunge in air travelers during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The pandemic has ended and now the company is back on a growth track," Tottori said. "We hope to make this company more sustainable."

To widen its business portfolio, acquisitions are being considered as an option, although there are no specific targets at the moment, she said.

Having spent the first three decades of her career as a flight attendant and as a manager overseeing them, she said her strength lies in keenly grasping customers' needs, adding she hopes to see more JAL flight attendants rise through the ranks in the future.

"Some of them may become future management members," she said. "Our (management side) job is to offer more opportunities so they can gain more experiences."

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