Several listed companies took a last minute sprint to comply with the SEBI and company law requirement of having at least one woman director on their board. The deadline for this compliance ended on Tuesday and it was apparent that India Inc was going more by the “letter” than the “spirit” of the regulatory requirement, say corporate observers.

However, some reckoned that it was a “reasonably good effort” from corporate India although they enjoyed a six-month extension to meet this requirement. There was certainly some last day rush, especially after the SEBI Chairman UK Sinha warned on Monday that failure to meet the regulatory requirement will invite “very serious” consequences on the erring companies.

Yet to comply

“As many as 313 out of a total 1,483 NSE-listed companies were still to appoint a woman director as on March 30,” said Pranav Haldea, MD, PRIME Database. “Though over a year has now passed since the SEBI board meeting on February 13, 2014, only 711 women have been appointed to 794 directorship positions in 758 companies till March 30,” he said.

Of these, 40 companies already had a woman on the board before the guideline was announced, implying that 718 companies have since complied with the requirement, Haldea said.

Missing independent tag

At least 104 of the 746 directorship positions have been filled by appointing women belonging to the promoter group. These women shall have the same voice as the promoter, defeating the very purpose of genuine (independent) gender diversity, said Haldea. Furthermore, another 211 of the 746 positions are non-independent, thus leaving 431 positions which are apparently independent, he said.

Sai Venkateshwaran, India-Head, Accounting Advisory Services, KPMG in India, said, it is important for regulators to ensure that companies are encouraged to comply with the spirit of the regulation and achieve the objectives rather than just comply in legal form.

Studies have shown that having a woman in the board room brings in diversity and enhances the quality of discussions in the boardroom.

Harish HV, Partner, Grant Thornton India LLP, said there was “reasonable” compliance and lot was focused on meeting the “letter” of the regulations.