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Billionaire Founder of Uniqlo Tadashi Yanai Says CEO Job Is ‘More Suitable’ for Women

Roger Federer (left) and First Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai

The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Tadashi Yanai, the billionaire founder of Japan’s Uniqlo retail empire, has said that he would prefer his successor to be female.

The 70-year-old’s Tokyo-listed retail clothing empire Fast Retailing is parent of the Uniqlo chain. Tadashi Yanai and his family own a 44% stake, putting their estimated net worth at over $29 billion.

As reported by Bloomberg Japan, Yanai said of his CEO role said “the job is more suitable for a woman,” adding that women “are persevering, detail-oriented and have an aesthetic sense.”

With a host of names rumored to be in the running for the firm’s top job, any successor would be joining a retailing empire with operating profit last year of $2.3 billion.

Uniqlo founder Tadashi Yanai and Susan Sarandon.

Getty Images

On September 3, Fast Retailing announced that same-store sales at its Uniqlo clothing outlets in Japan rose 9.9% in August from a year earlier. And although sales in Asia remain strong, U.S. expansion is on hold after Yanai shelved a 2012 goal to open 1,000 Uniqlo stores in the U.S.—it currently has 50.

Gender Gap

As talk of Uniqlo’s next CEO intensifies, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has spoken about the need to address the country’s shrinking workforce, and part of that concerns a better quality of work and more senior positions for women.

The World Economic Forum ranks Japan at No. 110 in its Global Gender Gap Index 2018 with a wage gap of 24.5% for women in 2017, compared with wages for a man in the same role.

In a 2019 report, the IMF slammed Japan for “not making progress in gender equality.” The IMF describes Japan’s gender gap ranking as “miserable,” although it does recognize a “slight improvement.”

Maki Akaida, head of Uniqlo’s Japan operations, reportedly leads the company’s most profitable unit and is seen as the most likely successor. When asked by Bloomberg Japan, Yanai cited her elevation as “a possibility.”