At 5.3 per cent, women are grossly under-represented on the boards of Indian companies, according to a report ‘Women on Boards’ by US-based research firm Catalyst.
This under-representation at the top is as much a result of lack of opportunities as reluctance on the part of women to forge ahead.
India ranks 31 among the 44 countries surveyed by Catalyst.
According to Zia Mody, Founder & Senior Partner, AZB Partners, “No board should have less than two women. If there is one woman, she will be quiet. But if you have two women, you are rocking.”
According to the report, 30 countries had less than ten per cent women on their companies’ boards. The region with the least representation of women was West Asia & Africa, barring South Africa (15.8 per cent) and Israel (15 per cent). Countries with under one per cent representation were Saudi Arabia (0.1 per cent), Qatar (0.3 per cent), UAE (0.8 per cent), Japan (0.9 per cent) and Bahrain (one per cent).
Experts in India said only affirmative action could allow women to reach the top at companies.
Norway, which tops the survey at 40.1 per cent, was the first country to introduce a quota for women on company boards in 2003.
Prior to this, women constituted only 6 per cent of company boards in Norway.
However, women often prioritise their personal lives over their professional one. Hence, fewer women make it to the top. “For the first seven years, men and women are given equal opportunities in every way. But once women hit the late 20s, or 30s or 40s and above, we see fewer women in senior positions,” said Leena Nair, Executive Director, HR – Hindustan Unilever, VP – HR, Unilever South Asia, at a recently held seminar on women leaders.
Fear of failure, disappointment
Panel members agreed that even when opportunity presents itself, women at times shy away from taking more important assignments due to fear of failure and disappointment.
India ranks 31 among the 44 countries surveyed by US-based research firm Catalyst.