There is a lack of equal or even adequate representation of women in the upper echelons of corporate India. Elaborate

The CS Gender 3000 report released by the Credit Suisse Research Institute makes the following observations:

  • India’s female representation on corporate boards has increased by 4.3 percentage points over the past five years to 15.2 per cent in 2019.
  • This growth was well below the global average of over 20 per cent.
  • India has the third-lowest rank in the Asia Pacific region with regard to female chief executive officer representation (2 per cent), as well as the second-lowest rank for female chief financial officer representation at just 1 per cent.
  • Globally the number of women in leadership has doubled. The countries that lead the table .i.e. Norway, France, Sweden and Italy, for example — either have formal quotas or informal targets for gender parity in place. This fact makes India’s poor performance all the starker.

The report is a pointer to the woeful lack of equal or even adequate representation of women in the upper echelons of corporate India. The report confirms the facts which have long been known anecdotally for long now:

  • Apart from a few high-profile corporate leaders, by and large, the upper echelons and even senior management positions in the private sector continue to be dominated by men.
  • Even though there is far greater gender parity at the time of intake, the number of women reduces exponentially as one moves higher on the pyramid of the corporate hierarchy.

The governments since independence have had various attempts to resolve the contradiction between India’s diversity and its inequality, from reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to the 25 per cent quota for students from economically weaker sections in private schools.

The private sector has resisted government-imposed quotas for affirmative action and it is understandable. But there can be no case for the continuing glass ceiling that women, as well as other marginalised social groups, face at different levels and in several arenas.

Way Forward

The private sector accounts for over 95 per cent of the labour force and corporate leaders and boards must seriously consider institutionalised mechanisms to ensure diversity and equality.

Any case for government regulation is best stymied by proactive action from companies themselves. In an era that values innovation and new perspectives in business more than ever before, keeping half the population from roles that could allow them to change the nature of Indian companies can only be counterproductive in the long run.


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