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Toyota Names First Foreign VP, Promotes Woman to Top Ranks in Diversity Push

"By appointing talented people from affiliates outside Japan to executive positions, Toyota aims to foster innovation by enabling people from many different backgrounds to contribute and provide input."

TOKYO -- Toyota (IW 1000/8) said Wednesday it would appoint a foreigner to the post of executive vice-president and promote a woman into its top ranks, both firsts for the Japanese firm in its nearly 80-year history.

The world's biggest automaker said the moves, part of a wider shuffle, were aimed at promoting diversity among its top management.

The pair will join a handful of foreign-born executives in top posts at Japanese firms.

Didier Leroy, 57, a Frenchman who now heads Toyota's European business and formerly worked for Renault, will become an executive vice president as of April 1, the company said. Leroy is the first non-Japanese to take the post.

The promotion will put Leroy in a group of six vice presidents below chief executive Akio Toyoda.

American Julie Hamp, 55, Toyota's North America group vice president, will become the company's first female managing officer, the automaker said.

"By appointing talented people from affiliates outside Japan to executive positions, Toyota aims to foster innovation by enabling people from many different backgrounds to contribute and provide input," a company statement said.

Despite their globally recognized brands, most major firms in the country are headed by Japanese men.

There are only a handful of foreign chief executives and traditionally male-dominated corporations still tend to have relatively few women in their top ranks.

Senior executives are often long-term company veterans who are promoted internally, frequently joining firms straight out of school.

Among the exceptions are Carlos Ghosn, the French-Lebanese CEO of Japan's No. 2 automaker Nissan, and Canadian Sarah Casanova who heads McDonald's Japan.

This week Takeda Pharmaceutical said it would promote Frenchman Christophe Weber as president and chief executive.

The conservative administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to strengthen corporate governance -- including making firms take on more independent directors -- and lure more women into the workforce.

Abe's so-called 'Womenomics' initiative has been cited as a possible way to boost Japan's economy as a rapidly ageing population strains the public purse.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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