Japan’s second and third largest banks have appointed women to top executive posts, a welcome trend that may be signaling a breakthrough in the male-dominated industry.

Following in the steps of Nomura Holdings, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp said Wednesday it would promote Teiko Kudo, general manager of the Growth Industry Cluster Department, to executive officer, marking the first time that a woman to hold the title at the bank.

The 49-year-old banker, who has worked in project finance and structured finance, will assume the post from April.

Earlier this month, Mizuho Bank, the core unit of Mizuho Financial Group Inc, also announced the promotion of Atsumi Arima, the head of Mizuho’s advisory division for small and midsize firms, to general manager of its Corporate Advisory Division.

Nomura Holdings appointed senior managing director Chie Shinpo to head the company’s banking arm, Nomura Trust and Banking.

Japan’s leading banks in general remain conservative institutions, with promotions given through seniority and jobs generally guaranteed until retirement age for full-time employees. Previously, none of the nation’s three biggest lenders, including Sumitomo Mitsui and Mizuho, had top female executives.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing to bring more women into leadership positions in a bid to encourage female participation in the economy. Abe is aiming to shore up proportion of women in top positions at Japanese organizations to reach 30 percent by 2020.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Sebra / Shutterstock.com