India conservative? More women CEOs in India than U.S.

By SiliconIndia   |   Monday, 30 November 2009, 02:05 Hrs
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India conservative? More women CEOs in India than U.S.
New Delhi: Indian women may not have proportionate representation in companies, but they are better off than women elsewhere. Eleven percent of 240 large companies - Indian-owned as well as multinational, private as well as state-owned - have women CEOs, according to a study carried out by executive search firm EMA Partners. In comparison, only three percent of the Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs.

As many as 54 percent of the women CEOs are, according to EMA Partners, in financial services. "Amongst private and foreign banks, women almost outnumber men. This has been helped in no mean measure by women from ICICI bank who have joined other financial institutions in recent times," said EMA Partners Managing Partner, K Sudarshan.

Thus, Chanda Kochhar is the Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank, ex-ICICI Prudential Chief Shikha Sharma heads Axis Bank and Kalpana Morparia is the Country Head of JPMorgan. Renuka Ramnath, the former CEO of ICICI Ventures, will run a yet unnamed fund. In addition, Naina Lal Kidwai occupies the corner office at HSBC and Meera Sanyal at ABN Amro. Manisha Girotra heads UBS, Ashu Suyash Fidelity. In the Fortune 500 list, only 7 percent women CEOs are from financial services.

Eleven percent of the Indian women CEOs are in the media and another 11 percent in pharmaceuticals. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is the Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon and Villoo Morawala Patel is the Founder, Chairman and Managing Director of Avesthagen. Eight percent are in consulting and another eight percent in FMCG and consumer durables. The big names here are Vinita Bali of Britannia and Nadia Chauhan of Parle Agro. Four percent each can be found in manufacturing and IT and IT-enabled services. The largest personal computer company in the country, Hewlett-Packard, is headed by Neelam Dhawan.

In the Fortune 500 list, in contrast, 48 percent of the women CEOs came from FMCG and consumer durables. Manufacturing and IT and IT-enables services returned 13 percent each.

Sudarshan said that the IT and IT-enabled services do not have many women CEOs because it requires a fair amount of travel to on-site locations. It also comes with the pressure of working through multiple time zones. Manufacturing has traditionally not attracted too many women because of the nature of the business and the location of factories in the interiors.

Thirty-five per cent of the women CEOs, according to EMA Partners, are also promoters of their companies. This includes Rajshree Pathy who runs Rajshree Sugars and Chemicals and Meher Pudumjee who is the Chairperson of Thermax. The other 65 percent are professional CEOs.

Still, most experts say that women are under-represented in corner offices across the world. "Given that roughly about 50 percent of our population is female, that about 50 percent of staff is female in most markets, the gender is hugely unrepresented in boards and at the CEO level," said EMA Partners International Chairman James Douglas. "For instance, out of 1,000 public companies in the U.S., with at least $1 billion in annual revenue, there are only 30 female CEOs. In the UK's FTSE 100 list, there are just three."

According to various studies and EMA Partners' estimates, there is no shortage of female talent. In Germany, over 25 percent executives are women, in the UK more than 30 percent and in France over 35 percent. In board appointments, the numbers decline further. In Germany, just over 10 percent of board members are women. In France, it is as low as seven percent. To address this imbalance, some countries have insisted on minimum levels of board female members. Norway, in 2004, inaugurated a quota system stipulating that 40 percent of the board of a publicly quoted company should be women otherwise that company could be delisted. In 2007, Spain decided to go the same way.

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