The glass ceiling is still quite intact, and women in India’s largest and most successful companies are not able to break it. Data sourced from Primedatabase shows that just five per cent of India’s 500 listed companies have a woman as a Chief Executive Officer or a Managing Director. Of these 500 companies, 319 don’t have women as Key Managerial Personnel .

Based on market capitalisation, 27 of the top 500 NSE-listed companies are led by a woman. Just four of these 500 companies have more than one woman MD or CEO. The topper here is Jindal Saw Ltd, led by three women. While Sminu Jindal is the company’s MD, Tripti Puneet Arya and Shraddha Jatia are the company’s Joint MDs. All three of them are OP Jindal’s granddaughters, the company’s founder and the daughters of OP Jindal’s son, Prithviraj Jindal.

Apollo Hospitals, Brigade Enterprises and Sundaram Fasteners are the other companies with more than one women MD/CEO. All these companies have appointed two women as Managing Directors and a Joint Managing Director. All of them are related to the founders. Women are more likely to lead a company if their family founded it.

Where are the KMPs?

Section 2(51) of the Companies Act defines Key Managerial Personnel (KMP), as either a Chief Executive Officer, manager, Managing Director, Company secretary or Whole-Time Director. However, 319 Nifty500 companies do not have any female KMP. The list includes big players like Tata Consultancy Services, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Bharti Airtel.

Three companies on the list have appointed four women KMPs: General Insurance Corporation of India, Thermax, and BSE. However, women in these companies form less than 50 per cent of the total KMPs. Three companies, KPIT Technologies, Natco Pharma and Teamlease Services, have two KMPs, both of whom are women.

Pranav Haldea, the MD of PRIME Database Group, says that even though the numbers are low, it is important to see where we began. “The proportion of women in leadership positions may be low ,but it is important to note that we have come a long way. A few decades back, these numbers were near zero,” he said.

“For women in leadership — whether key managerial personnel or directors, the fact remains that there are several barriers or hurdles that they need to cross. These range from a persistent gender wage gap to unconscious biases that permeate workplaces,” says Sonakshi Chaudhary, Manager of Strategic Partnership and Communications at TQH Consulting. “. 

“Evidence suggests that while women are just as ambitious as their male counterparts, they often face inequities in promotion processes. It is important to consider not just specific programs but also how organisations define and measure leadership. This introspection can help expand the pool of capable future leaders and identify growth areas that may not have previously been considered,” she added.