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Women CEOs: India Inc beats US hands down

Last updated: 09 March, 2010
Press Trust of India

Gender imbalances continue to prevail in corporate boardrooms across the world, but the situation is much better in our country if the number of women CEOs that India Inc has is any indication—nearly four times more than that of the US—a survey says.

MD and CEO ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar

MD and CEO ICICI Bank Chanda Kochhar According to a survey by international executive research firm, EMA Partners International, around 11 per cent of Indian companies have women CEOs, while in the case of Fortune 500 list from the US, the women CEOs just account for 3 per cent of the total consideration set.

“In the backdrop of the Fortune 500 numbers, the Indian results certainly look a lot better, though on a standalone basis, it is clear that barring financial services, other industries have a log way to catch up,” EMA Partners Chairman James Douglas said in the survey.

In India, the survey was carried out among 240 mid and large domestic as well as MNCs. The companies were selected on the basis of revenues and market capitalisation among others.  Globally, on an average, about 3 per cent of top CEOs are women, which is quite unrepresentative, given the fact that roughly half the population are females and around 50 per cent of the staff are also females in most markets.


According to the EMA Partners estimates, over 25 per cent of the executives are women in Germany, more than 30 per cent in Britain, while this is 35 per cent in France. “There is no doubt that there are many hurdles for a female to tackle on the way to the top position. However, there are as many talented females as there are males and we all need to encourage greater access to the top positions for female executives,” Douglas said.

A sector-wise analysis shows that in India, over half the women CEOs (54 per cent) hail from the banking and financial services sector, followed by media and life sciences (11 per cent)each. FMCG and consulting have about eight per cent each, and four per cent each in the manufacturing and IT/ITES areas. In contrast, in the Fortune 500 list, FMCG or consumer durables account for 48 per cent share of women CEOs, while financial services accounts for just 7 per cent, and for technology and manufacturing the share is 13 per cent. Banking and financial services sector has seen the presence of more women on top than any other industry.  In fact, women CEOs in this space amongst private and foreign banks would almost outnumber men in this sector, it added.

Interestingly, most women CEOs (35 per cent) hail from the promoter families, the survey said, adding if they are taken out of the equation, the number would drop drastically. The equation looks a lot better down the hierarchy, but scaling the ladder continues to be a big challenge for women across most industries, noted the survey.

To address gender imbalance, some countries insist on minimum levels of female members on boards. Norway, in 2004, launched a quota system wherein 40 per cent of board members should be females otherwise the firm could be de-listed. In 2007, Spain too decided to go the same way.

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