What’s the old saying, two heads are better than one? The idea is that a differing perspective lets you think of more solutions than a closed-off worldview.
Honda is embracing that adage by adding new leadership in two ways.
Issao Mizoguchi is the company’s first non-Japanese operating officer, as he is a Brazilian of Japanese descent. Kind of a baby step, to be sure, but still a sign of progress. Mr. Mizoguchi has worked with Honda’s South American division for more than 30 years, and is therefore well-equipped to take a more senior role with the company.
Companies further from the Rising Sun belt will indeed prove more valuable to Honda in the coming years, the company thinks, as the aging population of developed countries will likely lead to reduced demand. This has led Honda to empower regional offices with more autonomy to make decisions—an unusual move for the conservative company—and leave corporate the role of finding more diverse and talented executives—like Mr. Mizoguchi—to lead the company’s wide-ranging satellite locations.
The second major announcement is the company’s first appointment ever of a woman to the board of directors. Hideko Kunii holds master’s degrees from Ochanomizu University and San Jose State University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Sciences from the University of Texas at Austin.
Ms. Kunii led software research and development for 26 years at Ricoh Corporation and served as a council member for a number of Japanese Ministries. She is currently professor of engineering and gender-equality promotion at Shibaura Institute of Technology.
Many Japanese companies, including the automakers, are known for their all-male, all-Japanese leadership. With ambitious sales goals of six million units sold annually by 2017—this year’s estimate is 4.385 million—these two new appointments signals Honda’s belief in challenging itself to do better.
We look forward to seeing the contributions of these two new faces, whose placements depend on shareholder approval in June.