Samsung Electronics’ new president, Lee Young-hee, is the first woman not related to the owning family to hold the position. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics
SEOUL, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Samsung Electronics has named the first woman to hold the job of president at the conglomerate who is not related to the owning family.
Lee Young-hee was promoted from vice president in a raft of ascensions with six others announced Monday. The Samsung Group of companies is South Korea's largest conglomerate. It was founded in 1938.
Hotel Shilla CEO Lee Boo-jin and former Samsung C&T President Lee Seo-hyun also held president titles, but they are Samsung Chairman Lee Jae-yong's sisters.
Lee Young-hee, who is not related to the family, will take charge of the global marketing arm of the tech giant's device experience division.
After working at L'Oreal, Lee joined Samsung Electronics in 2007. She has been credited for successfully promoting the company's Galaxy smartphone brand.
"By promoting a high-performing female executive to the top position, we are demonstrating our commitment to growing talented female employees," Samsung said in a statement.
Lee Jae-yong's top two lieutenants, Vice Chairman Han Jong-hee and President Kyung Kye-hyun, will continue to lead the world's largest maker of memory chips and smartphones, according to Samsung.
Industry observers point out that the appointment of Samsung's first female president was belated, but is an encouraging sign for South Korea, a country notorious for its high glass ceiling.
South Korean consultancy Leaders Index said the proportion of female executives in the country's top 353 corporations in terms of sales amounted to a mere 6.3% as of the first quarter of this year.
It is an improvement from 3.8% in 2019, but still ranks the lowest among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
According to OECD data, South Korea had the highest wage gap among its members with women being paid a third less than male counterparts according to data from 2021.
In comparison, females were paid 16.9% less in the United States, 16.7% in Canada and 14.3% in the United Kingdom. Belgium had the narrowest gender pay gap with 3.8% while OECD averaged 12%.
"A vast majority of the country's top businesspeople are males. Against such a backdrop, we appreciate Samsung's decision," Kim Sang-kyung, chairwoman of the Korea Network of Women in Finance, an association of high-ranking women in banking, told UPI News Korea.
"We hope other corporations will follow Samsung's lead and do likewise. South Korean companies must enhance their gender diversity in line with the global trend," she said.
On Tuesday, LG announced the appointment of its first woman as CEO, Lee Jung-ae.