Businesswomen in India have moved a step closer to greater representation in the boardroom after the new company law made it mandatory for one woman to be present in every boardroom in the country. While many have hailed this new law as real crack in the glass ceiling, critics question whether compulsory targets are the best way for women to finally smash through.
I don’t support quotas or tokenism, but while doing research on Boardroom Commitment to Diversity, I realized that there are still unconscious biases and gender stereotypes present at the leadership levels in India Inc. Governments across the globe have introduced quotas to create a level playing field for many minorities in the system. Last year, European Parliament overwhelmingly approved proposals to make large companies fill 40 per cent of their non-executive board posts with women.
But a word of caution here. Laws are made to support a cause and promote diversity of thought at boardroom level, we need to ensure meritocracy rather than tokenism. It is said that one woman in the board is token, two is a presence and three is a voice. It is true that “Power of Three” works in boardroom as well.
I often hear the common lament: “We want to have more diversity in our boardroom. But where are the women? We just don’t know any”, when asked why they don’t have women on their boards. Though some of the Indian CEOs are cognizant of the fact that having diversity in the boardroom would benefit the organizational performance but they usually fail to implement it at the C – Suite level.
So why, in 2014, does this inequity persist? The truth is, it’s not hard to find qualified women to serve on corporate boards. Research suggests that all the board positions get filled by the still-existent old boys’ network and references. Companies may consider modifying their board criteria to broaden the pool of candidates. Experts believe boards need to recognize that they shouldn’t be recruiting members based on subject-matter knowledge but rather should be seeking “effective leaders”. After all, it has to be “best fit” for the position or role.
Here’s to the wave of change that is very much the need of the hour and is on its way.