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Here’s how you can empower women in India Inc.’s boardrooms: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Here’s how you can empower women in India Inc.’s boardrooms: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Women in leadership roles can enable unprecedented economic growth and sustainable development

Women in leadership roles can enable unprecedented economic growth and sustainable development Women in leadership roles can enable unprecedented economic growth and sustainable development

It has been 10 years since the Indian government brought about amendments to the Companies Act, making it mandatory for listed firms to have at least one woman on the board of directors.

In fact, India was the first developing country to introduce quotas for women on boards in 2013. A few years later, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) made it compulsory for the top 1,000 listed entities to have at least one woman independent director. By the end of FY23, over 4,700 women directors were serving on the boards of 3,200 listed companies in the country, per data from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). The regulatory push has increased women’s representation in Indian corporate boardrooms to 18 per cent in 2022, per an EY report, but a lot more still needs to be done.

According to a 2022 Deloitte Global study, women in India have a higher “stretch factor”—the average number of board seats held by a particular individual—than men. This means a small cohort of the same women are serving on a large number of corporate boards. This is despite the fact that more than 6,000 women are currently registered with the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs—a part of the MCA—which manages a databank of available board directors.

Gender Diversity Key to India’s Growth: It is imperative to underscore that the advancement of women in the workforce is not just a moral or ethical imperative; it is a pragmatic strategy with far-reaching implications for India’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. Embracing the full potential of women in leadership positions is not just about achieving gender balance, but is a catalyst for unlocking unprecedented economic growth and sustainable development.

To achieve gender diversity in the boardroom, India Inc. will need to create a robust leadership pipeline for women. Improving the representation of women in corporate leadership will not only enhance company performance but also foster a culture of greater inclusion and diversity throughout the entire workforce.

This issue holds particular significance for a country like India, where the decline in female labour participation is a cause for concern. Despite the remarkable growth of the Indian economy, which has expanded over 10-fold since 1990, the share of women in the workforce has dwindled from 30 per cent to 19 per cent in 2021, per World Bank.

The alarming statistic that less than 20 per cent of India’s women are engaged in paid employment, compared to over 70 per cent of men, underscores the urgency of addressing this imbalance.

In the context of India’s ambitious goal of becoming a $5-trillion economy, the economic empowerment of women becomes non-negotiable. According to research by the International Labour Organization (ILO), doubling the share of women in the workforce would help raise India’s GDP growth rate from 7.5 per cent to 9 per cent. Beyond economic growth, gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Empowering Women to Excel in Leadership Roles: Today, women outnumber men in higher education in India. And yet they lag behind men in corporate leadership. According to a survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) and Chief, only 39 per cent of companies in India promoted women to leadership roles, compared to 45 per cent globally.

Diversity is crucial for success because it adds dimension and perspective, which fosters creative thinking to solve problems. We pride ourselves on being an equal-opportunity employer and aim to have one of the strongest diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in the industry. A third of Biocon’s nine-member board are women. In fact, Biocon’s performance on board diversity is representative of the broader Indian life sciences sector, which leads all others with the highest percentage of women on boards at 24 per cent.

Over four-and-a-half decades of leadership have taught me that women’s intrinsic emotional intelligence allows them to empathise and connect with others. Their compassion, sensitivity, and multitasking abilities help them solve problems with a clear head. Moreover, women are good team players and more democratic as team leaders.

A Diverse Boardroom is the Key to Success: Numerous studies have indicated that companies with more women on their boards and top leaders are more profitable. Gender-diverse boards may lead cultural transformations that help organisations negotiate the current volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous landscape beyond financial success. They can influence how corporations respond to global challenges, navigate macro and geopolitical shifts, adapt to new regulations and address heightened scrutiny of climate change and ESG-related initiatives.

To realise this transformative potential, corporate entities in India must proactively formulate comprehensive gender diversity strategies, promoting an inclusive environment that facilitates equal participation at all organisational levels. This necessitates initiatives to attract and retain talented women, ensure equitable compensation, and cultivate a robust pipeline of female talent, ultimately contributing to a more balanced representation on corporate boards.

Simultaneously, women leaders must embrace their rights, articulating and registering their perspectives while cultivating unwavering confidence in their competence and leadership acumen. Championing their place in senior leadership and boardroom roles requires not only individual assertion but also a commitment to mentorship, promoting other women to senior positions and nurturing a broader pool of talent poised for board positions.

In the pursuit of a more inclusive corporate landscape, collaboration and empowerment can pave the way for sustained success and innovation on a global scale.

(Author is Executive Chairperson of Biocon and Biocon Biologics) (Views are personal)

Published on: Dec 11, 2023, 3:11 PM IST
Posted by: Priya Raghuvanshi, Dec 11, 2023, 1:07 PM IST