Out of 1,814 chief executives and MDs of NSE-listed companies, only 67 are women, as per Prime Database.
ET Bureau| Updated: Mar 27, 2019, 07.15 AM IST
NEW DELHI | KOLKATA: Despite all the talk around gender diversity and affirmative action, corporate India has failed to bring more women into leadership positions in recent times. Out of every 100 CEOs and managing directors of companies listed on the National Stock Exchange, only about three are women, and this has been the case since 2014, show data shared with ET by Prime Database.
Out of 1,814 chief executives and MDs of NSE-listed companies, only 67, or 3.69% are women as of March 6, 2019, as per latest data from Prime Database. This shows that the percentage of women CEOs/MDs has remained almost stagnant since March 2014 when out of 1,249 CEOs/MDs, 40, or 3.2%, were women.
“If the numbers (women CEOs) haven’t changed, it is obvious that despite the stated intent to improve diversity and create opportunities for women at all levels, action has not matched the talk,” said Vinita Bali, independent director and former managing director of Britannia. “Clearly, a lot more needs to be done if we believe in equity and merit.”
Bali, however, pointed out that gender diversity initiatives take time to reflect at the top of a company. “It is also important to remember that the CEOs/MDs of today are the result of decisions and actions taken more than five years ago,” she told ET. “Their numbers can only increase if the supply of COOs, CFOs, CMOs, CIOs, etc., increases. If that pipeline is not increasing, we will never find enough CEO material at the top.”
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairperson at leading biotech firm Biocon, said two-way efforts are needed to create more women CEOs – firstly, women need to push themselves to take up leadership roles (they are usually not confident enough) and secondly men must not overlook women.
“The top talent in India is naturally skewed towards choosing men as CEOs and MDs,” Mazumdar-Shaw told ET. “There is an opportunity and need for women to play leadership roles and we (India Inc) need to work seriously over next five to 10 years to ensure this.”
Globally, too, men are on the driver’s seat in most multinationals. There were just 24, or 4.8%, women among CEOs of companies that made up the 2018 Fortune 500 list. This was a 25% fall from 2017 when women were at the helm of 32, or 6.4%, companies in the Fortune 500 list.
It is a long road ahead to bring more women to the top, but some experts feel that India Inc is on the right path.
“Historically, the representation of women in the workforce has been low in India, but as more women enter workforce, more and more will start climbing the corporate ladder,” said Pranav Haldea, managing director at Prime Database Group. “This may eventually result in high representation of women as CEOs.”
Some others feel gender diversity suffers as one climbs to the top.
“This is a classic pyramid issue,” said Suchi Mukherjee, founder of fashion portal LimeRoad. “While at the entry levels women are much better represented, by the time one gets to the senior levels, it thins out to the point that merely 3% make it as CEOs as in the case of India. Even among Fortune 500 companies only 5% women make it as CEOs,” she said.
“Women in corporates need more mentors, especially male mentors as this gives them both perspective and sponsorship to the extent that is needed internally,” Mukherjee said.
IIM Kozhikode director Debashis Chatterjee said women are not active in peer group networking, a skill needed to rise to the top. “There is also a learned helplessness among some very talented women who become vulnerable to competing demands from family, fear of failure and risk aversion,” he said.
Falguni Nayar, founder of beauty retailer Nykaa, is much more positive about gender diversity, saying it’s only a matter of time before women occupied a lot more CEO/MD positions. “If you see how organisations are evolving now, if you fast forward another 5-10 years, the pace of change will be much faster than what has happened in the past,” said Nayar who was formerly the managing director at Kotak Mahindra Capital Company.
Navnit Singh, chairman at consulting firm Korn Ferry India, said companies have not spent enough time in the last decade to give opportunities at senior levels to women, but it is improving.