Indian listed companies may soon start scouting for women directors for their boards. As a result of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) board approving the proposal that every listed company must have at least one woman director on their board, as many as 966 listed companies will now have to comply with this directive.
A look at the 30 bluechip companies that form the benchmark Sensex at the Bombay Stock Exchange reveals that over one third or 11 companies including Reliance Industries, Tata Consultancy Services, Oil & Natural Gas Corpn and Larsen & Toubro Ltd do not have a woman director on their boards.
According to a study done by indianboards.com, a joint initiative between Prime Database and National Stock Exchange (NSE), as many as 966 of the 1,456 companies listed on NSE or two-thirds, do not have a woman director on their board currently.
They would therefore need to appoint a woman director on their board within the next seven months as Sebi's amendments to the listing norms will come into effect from October 1.
While the push for gender diversity has been welcomed, in the absence of some guidelines on the appointment, there are concerns being raised on the quality of such directors that will be brought on board.
“The stipulation should have been that the women should necessarily be independent directors otherwise compliance may mainly be achieved in letter by getting the mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and other relatives and friends of the promoter on the board, who will have the same voice, defeating the very purpose of genuine gender diversity," said Pranav Haldea, managing director, Prime Database.
Currently, Renu Sud Karnad holds the maximum number of board positions at nine of which six are as an independent director followed by Ireena Gopal Vittal at seven (all as independent director).
On an aggregate basis, there are a total of 9,009 persons occupying a total of 11,596 directorships in NSE-listed companies. Of these, only 597 positions are held by women, just 5.1 per cent.