Independent Directors’ Databank initiated a series of events named “Directors’ Colloquium” to engage Independent Directors in dialogue with experienced professionals around the world for learning from their experiences while working with the boards and transforming the tacit knowledge for the betterment of the practice of the emerging professional in India.
With this aim, a Power Talk titled “Women Leadership In Indian Boards” was delivered by Dr. Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director Apollo Hospitals and President FICCI on November 06, 2020. The talk oriented importance of gender diversity on boards. The discussion connected how diversity on boards enables balanced decision-making, helping companies to grow and benefiting society.
The Power Talk was moderated by Dr. Niraj Gupta, Nodal Officer, Independent Directors’ Databank and attended by more than 300 directors of various public and private sector companies.
Dr. Sangita Reddy in her initial remarks elaborated that gender diversity is improving at board level but there are challenges also that India and other countries are facing. These are challenges in society, in leadership, in middle level management … Once corporate India addresses this issue of gender diversity at the leadership level then automatically it is addressed at board level also. The speaker shared few research outcomes citing boards with empowered women directors perform better on all indices, whether it is return on capital employed or stock market performance or taking care of customers of the company.
The speaker shared some interesting facts on few other countries. Referring to Norway, who in 2003 made it mandatory to have 40 percent women representatives on boards, was later followed by many other European countries. She took an example from UK, who initiated 30 percent club, launched in 2010 with a goal to achieve 30 percent women on boards in 350 companies with a target to achieve by2020, and truly achieved so! She also indicated, in US women hold 20.4 percent share on boards in top 3000 companies there.
In Indian context the figures are quite encouraging. India is aligned with the best global practices and one of the first developing country to announce mandates of women representation on boards. She quoted top 500 companies having 17 percent women directors, out of which 71 percent are Independent Directors.
She also expressed, it is important to realize that women can play a very significant role on boards and need to create equality in decision-making. In her opinion, behavior change in Indian context is largely driven by the regulators but it should come from within.
On completion of her talk, Question and Answer (Q&A) session opened up for participants.
The first query was on her observation as a board member; what women Independent Director's do well on corporate boards and what they could do better. In response, Dr.Reddy stated what they do well is based on the training and exposure that they had. If they have accounts and finance background they should be able to be in an audit committee, subsequently chair the audit committee. A good board is that which balances the skill set of its directors.
Following a query was on how experienced women can look out for board positions. Dr. Reddy advised to prepare a brief profile and mail it to every company where an individual thinks to add value … quite possible it may work.
Next question related to when a women independent director getting into the board, what impact she can make on joining it. Dr. Sangita Reddy responded by saying it depends on combination of both knowledge and environment. It is the knowledge of the independent director and environment to be created by the chairperson of the board to place the right kind of voice that can make an impact on the board.
The session ended with a Vote of Thanks to the speakers and the participants.
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