Japan’s opposition party just elected a woman as its leader for the first time

To infinity and beyond.
To infinity and beyond.
Image: EPA/Kimimasa Mayama
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By Japanese measures, it’s been a good year for women in politics. The country now has a female running the massive metropolis of Tokyo, a woman in charge of defense affairs, and as of today, the main opposition party will also led by a woman.

Renho Murata, a half-Taiwanese half-Japanese 48-year-old mother of two, won in a landslide and was elected the new leader of the Democratic Party, the nation’s second-biggest after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. With newly appointed defense minister Tomomi Inada seen as a potential successor to prime minister Shinzo Abe, it doesn’t seem too implausible that Japan could even have a female leader in the not-so-distant future.

Getting more women to work is a key pillar (paywall) of Abe’s so-called “Abenomics” blueprint to revive Japan’s economy. In 2014, he appointed a record five women to ministerial positions to his cabinet, though two later resigned over separate political scandals.

But female participation in Japanese political life remains woefully poor, especially compared to other developed countries, and even against neighbor South Korea, which has a serious problem with getting women to stay in the workforce, period.

In fact, according to the World Bank, female representation in parliament in Japan is at almost the same level as Botswana, The Gambia, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire.