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Breaking Ground: New rules see more women directors, but few are in executive roles

Of the total number of female executive directors only 31% were professional EDs, the remaining 69% belonged to the promoter group or were representatives of the promoters.

Breaking Ground: New rules see more women directors, but few are in executive roles
As a percentage of total directors on a board, it is encouraging to see roughly 27% of the companies have a representation 20-29% of women on their boards.

Given how the share of directorships held by women in the Nifty 500 companies has risen nearly three-fold over six years to 17% at the end of December 2020 from around 6% in March 2014, it must be said the regulatory push for more women directors has yielded results. However there are not too many women in executive positions, a mere 11%.

Also, of the total number of female executive directors only 31% were professional EDs, the remaining 69% belonged to the promoter group or were representatives of the promoters.

Nevertheless, an IIAS study shows the number of women directorships as a percentage of total directorships has been on the rise; at the end of December 2020, of the Nifty 500 companies, 475 had at least one-woman director on the board. Of the remaining 25 companies, two are institutionally controlled–Yes Bank and LIC Housing Finance; two are promoter run–Ashoka Buildcon and Aegis Logistics; and the remaining 21 are PSUs.

One can argue that some of the directorship gaps may be transitory, but that does not take away the fact that PSUs continue to lag the gender diversity agenda. Nonetheless, more companies now have one woman on their boards, and several boards have more than one. Regulations have indeed reinforced the focus on gender diversity in boardrooms.

As a percentage of total directors on a board, it is encouraging to see roughly 27% of the companies have a representation 20-29% of women on their boards. While this reflects corporate India’s intent to welcome more female directors on their boards, only five companies were represented by women to the extent of 50% or more on their boards for 2020.

If gender diversity is to improve, there needs to be a more mentoring of women, with companies taking the lead. Also, while merit is of the utmost importance and should never be compromised, women need to be encouraged to grow in their careers. Companies need to support them, especially when they are young mothers. The large number of women entrepreneurs, as seen in the many women-led start-ups, is a sign women can be high calibre professionals. India Inc seems to have neglected their talent all these decades.

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