From Tata to ICICI Bank: How India Inc is retaining women

Celebrating women in business seems to be the theme this month.

While Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry has set the ball rolling for a debate on gender diversity in the corporate world this week also saw the highest number of women enrollments in India's leading IIMs.On 18 June, the Economic Times reported about how banks in India like ICICI Bank, Citi, Standard Chartered and HSBC are laying out special maternity benefits in an attempt to retain women employees. Policies across banks range from childcare to flexi-work hours and maternity leave in tranches.

Tata Global Beverages has put its women employees across departments from plantations to tea blending, marketing and manufacturing on the cover of its just-released annual report to drive home the point of gender diversity.

Tata Global Beverages has put its women employees across departments from plantations to tea blending, marketing and manufacturing on the cover of its just-released annual report to drive home the point of gender diversity.

Tata Global Beverages has put its women employees across departments from plantations to tea blending, marketing and manufacturing on the cover of its just-released annual report to drive home the point of gender diversity.

The focus of Tata Global Beverages annual report this year is "women in our business".

"When women are insufficiently represented in the workplace, we lose out on 50 percent of the talent pool. In an environment where human capital makes all the difference between success and failure, this is a massive loss which countries and corporates can ill afford,"Mistry said in the report. The worforce at Tata Global Beverages currently includes 41 percent women and has two women on its board of directors.

Claiming that talented women drop out of the workforce "creating a porous pipeline of talent," Mistry added that companies need to do much more to retain, develop and grow their women.

Even Diageo India is looking at expanding the scope of its global women's networking group, the Spirited Women's Network, this year by encouraging management styles and behaviours as well as developing and support solutions to women's issues.

Cadbury India recently introduced the 'My Mentor' programme to encourage high-potential women to aspire to senior leadership roles, while others like Accenture, Boston Consulting Group and Coca-Cola are recognising formal women's networks as a critical retention tool for women leaders, particularly at the mid-career level, according to this ET report.

While there is no dearth of instances of women heading companies globally, the percentage of women on corporate boards and executive Committees in India stands at a mere 5 and 3 percent, respectively, against 17 and 10 percent in Europe and 15 and 14 percent, respectively in US, according to a MC Kinsey survey.

Even another survey by the GMI Ratings' Women on Boards, which sampled 89 Indian companies with a market cap of over $1 billion, showed that corporate boards in India have less than seven percent women.

"Despite the presence of a few high-profile female entrepreneurs and CEOs, India's percentage of female directors is only 5.2%, below the developing-world percentage of 7.2%, and it has not increased significantly since 2009. Although over 40% of companies have at least one woman on the board, a figure roughly in line with the emerging-markets percentage overall, a mere 3.2% of companies have three or more female directors. The number of women in board or committee chair roles is also very low, with one notable exception: 6.5% of remuneration committee chairs in India are women," the survey said.

Currently, in India, of the 1,112 directorships of 100 companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, only 59 are held by women. Another terrible statistics: None of the Sensex companies are headed by women.

While India Inc's efforts to retain and encourage women talent is duly noted, they must ensure that board room cultures are inclusive and address this whopping gender imbalance.

Rama Bijapurkar, independent director on several boards and an expert on consumer behaviour, has a solution to this.

In a column in Business Today, she writes, "There are several qualified women out there, and the way to find them is for nomination committees to spend some money and advertise, or ask a headhunter to systematically create a database from which to choose. If nominations committees were to follow more formal search processes and adopt affirmative action, there will be a quantum jump in the number of women on Indian boards, without lowering entry standards in any way."

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 21:57:17 IST

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