Unfriendly Environment

TORU YAMANAKA-AFP / GETTY IMAGES

NOT ENOUGH PULL: Nonaka wasn't able to convince Japan's conservative businessmen to "Think Gaia"

When Tomoyo Nonaka in June 2005 took over Sanyo, the venerable but struggling Japanese electronics maker, she already had one strike against her. Nonaka was a female CEO in a business culture that is overwhelmingly male. A more timid executive would have charted a cautious course, focusing on slashing costs at a company that lost $1.6 billion in its 2005 fiscal year. But Nonaka, a former TV journalist with no executive experience, instead announced a bold plan to transform Sanyo into a leader in the production of environmentally friendly products like solar panels and energy-efficient refrigerators. "I think it's clear that...

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