Lee Young-hee has become the first woman president at Samsung Electronics without connection with the owner’s family members. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics

Samsung, SK taking lead to change trends

According to The Economist, South Korea has ranked the lowest place in terms of the glass-ceiling index among 29 OECD member countries for the past 10 years.

This means that the nation maintained a very male-dominated business infrastructure across the board.

There were some signs of change this year, however, with big conglomerates like Samsung and SK taking the lead.

Earlier this month, Samsung Electronics promoted Vice President Lee Young-hee so that she could become the first female president of the firm with no relation to the owner’s family members.

Lee Boo-jin is the president of Hotel Shilla, and Lee Seo-hyun was the president of Samsung C&T. But both are younger sisters of Samsung Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

As a flagship affiliate of Korea’s No. 1 chaebol Samsung Group, Samsung Electronics is the world’s largest manufacturer of memory chips and smartphones.

SK Group, Korea’s No. 2 conglomerate, also appointed Ahn Jung-eun as CEO of its e-commerce subsidiary 11th Street. Since its foundation in 1953, the Seoul-based group has never appointed a female CEO.

Late last month, the country’s cosmetics company LG Household & Health Care named Lee Jung-ae as its CEO. She became the first woman to head a unit of LG Group, the country’s No. 4 player.

Yet, experts point out that the country still has a long way to go.

“The country has changed the law to encourage large corporations to give more leadership roles to women. The requirements appear to work,” Prof. Seo Yong-gu at Sookmyung Women’s University said.

“But overall, the country is still overwhelmed by the male-dominated corporate culture. It would not change overnight, and we should put forth more efforts to bring about real changes.”