Top corporate leaders today said it was time for women to head businesses to ensure better economic growth, according to discussions at the World Economic Forum.
During a session here, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Undersecretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women) expressed their views that women leaders were great at running businesses and managing the overall economy.
Sandberg said there was enough data suggesting that productivity improves if women were at the driving seat.
The "sole member of the other sex on the panel", auto major Renault-Nissan Alliance's chief Carlos Ghosn agreed that companies have performed well under women leaders.
Lagarde said half the computers, half the cars and half of many other products are bought by women in the US, emphasising that it is time to have greater women representation in terms of corporate leadership.
"If customers are women, then the companies must make sure that their board members and top management are also represented by the women by at least that ratio," she said.
Lagarde stated that there is a lot of gender discrimination in many countries, including emerging economies. Ghosn agreed with the IMF chief's observation.
While she earlier felt that women should get their dues on their own and was against the system of quotas for them, Lagarde said after witnessing trends over the years she is now in favour of women-specific quotas and targets to ensure female representation.
To ensure a level-playing field, the leaders said that quotas could be one way, while other measures like ensuring education and training could also be looked at.
For improving the number of women leaders at companies, Ghosn suggested quotas in hiring, as wells as steps to ensure that there are certain number of women candidates when companies prepare their succession plan.
Pitching for natural equality for women at world forums, Sandberg said they need not be given special status.
Citing an example, she said that when women won 20 per cent seats at the US Senate, the headlines were written about women power taking over Senate. For her, however, it was not a matter of celebration because women got only 20 per cent despite making up for 50 per cent of the country's population.
"The worst discrimination I faced was my first interview at a big law firm in France.. I was told I am getting a job, but not to expect to be a Partner. When asked why, I was told that because I was a woman and therefore I cannot become a partner," she said.
The incident happened 35 years ago but things have not changed much at law firms since then, she added.
Lagarde said there were not enough women in politics and "once we have enough women in politics that would make a huge difference as they are the people who make decisions.
"There have to be (more) women in politics," she said.
Referring to the Netherlands, Lagarde said things have improved in a big way in that country mainly because of various policy measures taken by the government.