Women Leadership Now and in the future

Author Name : Saikkrishna

Published : January 23, 2020

I happen to lay my hands on one of the professional monthly magazine last month of 2019 (in fact third week of that month) and was fascinated to read the cover story titled – Get on Board. That article spoke at length about women on the board these days. But that is for later part of this blog.

What amazed me certainly, was the traits across the globe. The traits of male domination not only at office but also at home predominantly. The cover story is about glorious and seminal personality in Corporate Australia – Ms. Elizabeth Proust – who had adorned several hats as CEO, reputed lawyer, Board member, Chairperson and above all a high profile public servant (to quote from the cover story –INTHEBLACK December 2019 issue). Even in Australia in 1940s women were meant to get married when they come of age, raise family and generally keep the house in good order and the family in good humor.

My astonishment stopped then and there. Oh really, I always thought that was more an Indian men thing and it is not a global curse. It is not so as this article revealed. Hats off to women of our days (started in 60s or 70s) who broke off this shackles and went about chasing their dreams. Ms. Proust must be very proud of her accomplishments, undoubtedly.

We have reached so far that we are discussing about women leadership in corporate world across the globe. But have we done enough to say that there is enough and more diversity in the Boards. Forget about Board, in leadership roles. While I doubt that argument to debate, are the companies paying women managers at par with men. I have read at least a dozen article and have heard murmurs in the corporate corridors about the pay disparity. Right, let me put that part to rest for now. That is for another time.

Getting back to women representation in the board, it makes an interesting reading that in Australia, according AICD only 29.7% are women directors in ASX 200 listed corporates with four of them are all male directors…lo and behold… this is not surprising. Now to Global statistics which is even more discomforting. There are only 21.4% women directors in Fortune Global 200 companies as on 2018 compared to 10.4% in 2004. Yes it is good double jump but still not good enough. Where is equality in diversity in the gender parameter? If the Board cannot implement this how canthey drive equality in diversity down the organizations they govern.

North European companies esp. from France and Italy have done well in terms of appointing Women directors to their boards. Both account for 43.4% and 34.8%. In Americas, given the amount of listed corporates and being a trendsetter in everything it does, from free gun policy (sic) to US Patriot Act, from electing a President to impeaching the President, from bombing Iran to trade war with China, US is pathetically lagging behind at 24.5% in 2017 with a run rate of 0.5%. This is certainly not palatable.

Asia Pacific which contributes largest number of Fortune 200 companies has appalling 7.4% Women directors on its board. They have grown from sub1% in 2004. I find this as sheer lack of will by the corporates in making their governance beyond a fashion statement. Companies like French energy giant Energie has 9 women members in its board of 17 members. Total, BNP and SocGen have made it 50% women representation in the Board mandatory. These companies are true trendsetters and why not rest follow them, albeit being compelled by the quota system that has been adopted which is a shame. 

Should Corporates across the globe fall prey to Quota system? As a citizen of a country which has been embroiled in quota system from personal life to professional career for seven decades, I have seen the disasters of quota system, wholly and truly. Should corporate world take this diabolical route to implement quota of 50% of their Board with women members? It is more to do with WILL not an external stimulant called QUOTA or legislation.

Names like Elizabeth Proust, Indra Nooyi (formerly, Pepsico), Ursula Burns (Xerox), Lynne Doughtie (KPMG), Isabelle Kocher (Engie), Cathy Engelbert (Deloitte), Lynsi Snyder (In-n-Out burger) are just handful of  women CEO as well as Board members who had contributed to Board and the corporate meritoriously. So skills, qualification and experience of directors matters not quota. Gender neutrality matters the MOST.

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