Ryoko Azuma, 44, has been announced as the first female commander of a squadron in Japan’s navy. In 2016 she also became the first female captain of a warship in the country’s history, and is now in charge of 4 ships. The squadron includes the Japanese navy's biggest warship, the helicopter carrier Izumo, with about 1,000 crew members. She received the Izumo amid speculation that navy chiefs are planning to modernize the warship to make it compatible with the new F-35B fighters.
Commenting on the historic appointment, a spokesman for the Maritime Self-Defence Force stressed that Azuma was chosen because she was a woman.
The newly-appointed commander herself also claimed she didn’t think about being a woman but pointed out “I want to try to become a role model for younger female officers." The 14,000 women currently serving in the Japanese armed forces constitute only 6% of personnel.
With the Me Too and Time’s Up movements on the rise around the world, Japan is far behind its Western partners in the matter of gender equality, as some researches have shown.
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The World Economic Forum’s global gender equality survey has placed Japan at 114th in their rankings for 2017, down from 111th in 2016, which is the worst standing among the Group of Seven major economies. The Swiss-based Inter-Parliamentary Union has also put Japan below Myanmar and Gambia, as only 47 of the 465 members of the lower house are female.