First Female CEO of South Korea Banks
South Korea’s banking sector finally has its first female chief executive. On Monday, Kwon Seon-joo took over as the CEO of state-owned Industrial Bank of Korea, 35 years after she first joined the bank. The development comes 10 months after Park Geun-hye was sworn in as the nation’s first woman president and has sparked similar moves by rival banks to promote women to senior positions.
It’s rare to find women in senior positions in Korea’s banking sector, as they often drop out to look after their families. Kim Young-joo, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said this is partly because of “tacit discrimination against married women, and a lack of acknowledgement of (the burdens of) children raising.” According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 53.5% of the total female population in South Korea aged between 15 and 64 was employed in 2012. “For the broader financial industry, women account for half or more of total new employees,
” Ms. Kim said. However, data from the Financial Supervisory Service shows that IBK’s Kwon was the only woman in a senior management position at domestic commercial banks as of February. That is equivalent to 0.05% of a total of 191 senior roles at these banks. Ms. Kwon, who was formerly heading IBK’s risk-management team, is a rare exception to the rule. She started her career as a banker in 1978 through IBK’s first program to employee men and women together for similar roles. Before that, IBK would recruit men and women separately and women were mostly hired for low-ranking jobs.
Ms Kwon stayed on at the bank even as most of her female colleagues left to take care of their families. “I stand here amid high expectations of the media and public as the nation’s first female CEO of a bank,” Ms. Kwon, 57, said in a speech on Monday, adding that her top priority would be to focus on efficiency and to expand into emerging Asian nations. After IBK’s Kwon was named as the CEO by the top financial regulator on Dec. 23, rival banks followed suit.
Hana Financial Group, home to one of the nation’s top four banking groups, said Sunday that it has promoted three female bankers to senior management positions. Just days before that, Shinhan Financial Group also appointed a woman banker to a senior executive role at its flagship Shinhan Bank.