With the October 1 deadline for Indian companies to have at least one woman director on the board approaching fast, only around 10% of such vacancies have been filled.
A study put together by law firm Khaitan and Co and Biz Divas, a national network of professional women, states that as on June 30, 91 women directors were appointed to 97 board seats across Indian firms.
Stock market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India’s (Sebi) guidelines, which were amended to align with the new Companies Act of 2013, mandate listed Indian companies to appoint at least one woman director by October 1. The report titled ‘Women on Boards’ says that the total number of vacancies that need to be filled due to Sebi’s changed regulations stands at 966.
Though India has one of the worst ratios of women directors to their male counterparts on company boards, it is also the first among developing nations to have enacted a law to make the representation of women of corporate boards mandatory.
The study shows that women directors’ constitute merely 5% of the overall total strength of corporate boards and 3% of executive committees in India.
Even China, India’s neighbour and closest economic rival, has a better ratio of women directors (albeit marginally). In 2013, women directors accounted for 8% of total directors on corporate boards, and 9% of executive committees.
European countries like Norway, Sweden, France, Denmark, Germany and Belgium have a much higher proportion of women directors on corporate boards. The proportion of women on the board of directors of European countries ranges from as high as 41%
for Norway to around 18% for Belgium.
The report states that even though there is a lot of emphasis on gender diversity on corporate boards across the world, a fifth of global companies do not have a woman director on board.
“The largest economies — US, China, and Japan — which have no quotas for women in boardrooms, had the lowest growth of women on boards, suggesting that unless pushed, change does not occur,” the report stated.