Ms Sato, 48, last month assumed the historic accolade of becoming the first female corporate officer at Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the largest electric utility in Japan.
In her new role as customer services vice-president and its first female board member, she has been catapulted to the fifth highest ranking position in the company, heading a team of 400 at the central Tokyo HQ and a nationwide division of 6,000.
Ms Sato’s appointment is timely for Tepco. The company is still struggling to recover from the international infamy acquired after its Fukushima power plant was severely damaged in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, resulting in the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Today, Tepco is in the throes of a major operation not only to cut costs and restructure but also to restore public confidence in the once proud 62-year-old company and convey a new image.
With her calm manner and perfect posture, Ms Sato appears the antithesis of a Japanese salaryman at Tepco, where only 4,700 employees out of 38,000 are female.
“It was a very difficult time working here after Fukushima,” she says. “The reason I chose to work at Tepco originally was to contribute to society. I thought if we worked hard and performed well, people would be able to benefit from that. I never thought that people would talk negatively about Tepco the way they have done. That is difficult. And that situation still hasn’t changed yet.”
She recognises that nuclear policy is now subject to intense scrutiny, but says that, with an energy self-sufficiency rate of just 4pc in terms of a stable supply, and the rising cost of fossil fuels, nuclear power will remain important in Japan.
Ms Sato believes Tepco will be at the forefront of promoting reform, aming for the world’s highest technological standards.
“The launching pad of Tepco’s rebirth begins with Fukushima’s revitalisation,” she promises.