No excuse for not hiring more female leaders: FM Sitharaman | The Financial Express

No excuse for not hiring more female leaders: FM Sitharaman

The government can’t push companies any more to have more women on boards, she said, adding that the pressure to do so must come from the corporate world itself.

No excuse for not hiring more female leaders: FM Sitharaman
The average number of women on Indian boards was only 1.03. About 58% of them were independent directors, the minister said at the Women Directors Conclave at the BSE.

Companies needs to hire more women on boards and in leadership positions and widen the base of female directors, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday, stressing that there is simply “no excuse” anymore for the industry for not doing so.

It has been proved globally that companies with more female leaders are more profitable and inclusive, she said. Women are not asking for gender parity and inclusivity, but if “you want profit, get us in”. “You cannot ignore us anymore,” said Sitharaman.

The average number of women on Indian boards was only 1.03. About 58% of them were independent directors, the minister said at the Women Directors Conclave at the BSE.

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The government can’t push companies any more to have more women on boards, she said, adding that the pressure to do so must come from the corporate world itself.

The pool of female corporate leaders, too, needs to be expanded, as many of them are on the board of multiple companies. “Fourteen women hold five-to-six directorship positions across NSE-listed companies, while seven hold seven directorship positions each — that is a very revealing number. It doesn’t have to be so concentrated,” she said.

Sebi requires large listed companies to have at least one female director on their boards. While the number of women directors has risen steadily, many companies, including PSBs and other undertakings, still don’t have a single female director, Sitharaman said.

Attempts to bypass the provisions of the Companies Act with regard to the appointment of female directors are being tracked, she cautioned. According to the seventh edition of Deloitte Global’s Women in the Boardroom report released earlier this year, women held 17.1% of the board seats in India. The number has risen by 9.4 percentage points from the 2014 edition, the year when the Companies Act made it mandatory to have at least one female member on every board. But it still remains below par. Only 3.6% of chairpersons and 4.7% of chief executives of listed firms were women. The study analysed 340 companies where 413 women were on the boards.

At the same time, the finance minister called on women to come forward and grab the corporate leadership roles. There is not enough number of women in the world of corporate leadership because they are overwhelmed by an inherent feeling that they need to prove themselves time and again to assume such positions. Mentoring more women to emerge as board members is the only way out, she said.

Having women on boards, she said, bring a material difference. “It cannot be a comfortable men’s club. You have to get in there with your perspectives.”

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