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Posts Tagged ‘Gender Diversity’

Our dream merchants keep dishing out movies. Some of us who use a managerial lens to view the same keep learning new lessons from these.

There are several parallels between a reel career and a real career. On the screen, we admire a hero. At our place of work, we admire some of our bosses. On the screen, we notice the oomph of a diva and fall in love with her, at least temporarily, till the time the next heart-throb pops up in another movie after some time. Likewise, in real life, we come under the temporary spell of a company. We join it, only to find that what was showcased as heaven turns out to be a hell in more ways than one. We then decide to shift our allegiance to another corporate we come across.

In the movies, we learn to hate a villain or a vamp. In real life, we run into those who oppose all our proposals tooth and nail. Some do it openly whereas others, much to our chagrin, do it covertly. We decide to move on to greener pastures, only to find some villainous characters there as well. Only the faces and names change, their jaundiced approach to us does not.

While watching a movie, we experience a willing suspension of disbelief. In real life, we often end up suspending our egos and our autonomy of thought. If a flick makes us travel to a fantasy land for 2-3 hours, a career makes us grind our heels for at least 10 hours a day.

Recently, an opportunity came up for yours truly to interact with members of the Ahmedabad Management Association in India. Some of the fresh ideas presented at the event could be summed up as follows.

Building Synergy and Team Management

  • Handling ethnic and regional prejudices
  • Seeking areas of agreement first
  • Building on strengths, Compensating for weaknesses; Synergy
  • Overcoming adversity
  • No eve teasing, No sexual harassment

Inspiring Leadership

The manner in which Nelson Mandela endeavours to overcome racial prejudices not only in his team of personal assistants but also in the country makes one sit back and wonder as to how he thought of using a sport like rugby to further his agenda. One of the qualities of leaders who inspire us is a capacity to indulge in out-of-box thinking to solve complex problems.

Brand Building



If one was about putting customer needs first, the other was about the use of even unethical means to achieve an ethical end – that of delivering better value to customers. Both cover a critical success factor which contributes towards building a brand.

Human Values: Energy and Wisdom

When a start-up driven by only youthful energy also starts tapping into the wisdom of an experienced executive, things start to fall into place. Business grows in a sustainable manner.

Firing and Terrorizing


The emotional cost of being on a firing spree could take its own toll, dulling sensibilities in a significant manner. The trauma of working under a tough and unreasonable boss leads to a deeper understanding of the managerial process.

Hormones vs Hierarchies





Managements can no longer afford to look the other way when their key performers happen to be having a serious affair with one of their team members. Work places need to be made more gender sensitive.

Battling the Cancer of Corruption


Both were a humorous take on the issue. One led to failure while the other one concluded on a positive note.

Aiming High


Demonstrates the kind of sacrifices one makes and the subterfuges one indulges in to climb the ladder to dizzying heights of one’s chosen profession. Managing successes and failures with a dash of equanimity is a critical factor.

Mentoring



Deep reserves of patience are a hallmark of a good mentor. The satisfaction of a job well done is far more important than the money at stake.

Start Ups



Identifying and tapping latent market potential is an important skill for an entrepreneur to have. Leveraging one’s core strengths happens to be another.

 

Some Observations of the Audience

  1. Quite a few movies gain traction due to the pre-release controversies which appear to get whipped up. Would you say that such controversies form a part of a well-orchestrated marketing campaign for the movie concerned?

In most of the cases, perhaps yes. When millions ride on a single movie, the producers would go to any lengths to keep the box office registers ringing aloud.

  1. Many of the movie reviews in the press appear to be unduly biased, either praising or panning a work in a superficial manner. Whom can we trust for an honest and objective review?

Good observation. Since I am active in blogosphere, over the years, I have somehow come to trust some individuals who, I believe, provide a balanced view of the movies which keep coming up. Here are some which might be of interest to those who love cinema:

Of course, there would be several others whom I am yet to discover.

  1. Why did you not think of becoming a movie critic yourself?

Simply because I would rather watch a movie with a quiet mind, sans a deadline and an editor breathing down my neck. Making one’s hobby a profession has its own perils! 

  1. The rising level of obscenity in our movies. Is there anything that can be done about it?

Trust our film makers to keep pushing the envelope further with each passing year. Shock, awe and titillation happen to be the name of the game. A rejection by audience could alone bring results. A self-certification by movie makers as to the Gender Sensitivity Rank of an offering could help.

 

(Notes:

 

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The gang of twenty-five wannabe managers which had entered the not-so-hallowed portals of UBS* in the year 1974 had only one regret. Fate had not been kind to it. Gender diversity had taken a toss. None of the members were from the tribe of the delicately nurtured. The batch senior to them did boast of a few, but none who would put a Venus to shame. A sense of melancholy pervaded. The roving eye, having roved, could at best console itself with brief encounters with some of the lotus-eyed females of the species on the campus either while visiting the Student Centre or when loitering around the campus.Panjab_University

The gang was blissfully unaware of the fact that an alumnus of Panjab University could become a sagacious, albeit reluctant, Prime Minister of India some thirty years down the road. Some of its members had vaguely heard of a keen and bright elocutionist from the Law Faculty, little realizing that she could be heading the Ministry of External Affairs some forty years into the future. Almost all had heard and seen the exploits of a rising theatre artiste, though none could guess that she could become a celebrity Bollywood artist in the years to come, and even a Member of Parliament from the City Beautiful. And, not to forget her future husband, who was then honing his acting skills, eventually getting recognized as one of the finest actors in Bollywood.

A sense of gloom and despondency

Few months into the session, an underlying sense of gloom and despondency could be discerned. The hostel food would turn to ashes in the mouth. Evening saunters down the Sector 15 market brought some solace, by way of pleasing either the palette or the eye. Nocturnal visits to the road side vendors dishing out greasy omelets opposite the PGI gate brought the only rays of sunshine into their lives. Most of the architectural and natural attractions of the city had been explored ad nauseam.MBA 1976

The not-so-United Colours of Academicians

By then, the tribe of UBS educationists had been thoroughly observed, studied and classified. The dominating ones invariably knew their stuff, but also knew that they knew the stuff. A stiff-upper-lip approach to all affairs, academic or otherwise, came to them naturally. The outpourings of their knowledge had to be listened to in rapt attention. Their razor-sharp eyes would invariably cast a supercilious gaze upon the hapless students seated meekly in front of them. Nerves of chilled steel were required to deal with them. Not surprisingly, they earned a deep respect, duly laced with acidic scorn. These were the types who represented stark authority and were thus deeply resented.

Then there were those at the other extreme. They would walk into a lecture hall hiding behind a huge stack of text books, as if to prove their thoroughness in the subject concerned. These were the defensive kinds who would deliver their sermons of knowledge in a sheepish manner. The studious coves of the gang, like yours truly, were invariably driven to study the subject on their own. Visits to the Department or the Central Library were thus prompted by intentions of a pious nature. Most others would be on back-slapping terms with them, trying to use their sense of humour to gain assignment marks.

Bang in the middle of this normal distribution curve of professorial skills fell those who not only knew their stuff but were also good communicators. They were revered, liked and admired by a vast majority of the members of the gang.

Shaking off the gloom and despondency

Come Diwali and some brainy, dashing and enterprising coves of the gang decided to take the matter in their hands and shake off this feeling of gloom and despondency. The rebel spirit held sway and a ‘time bomb’ was concocted, using an ‘agarbatti’ (incense stick) and a large size cracker. Several trial runs later, an impromptu device was perfected, so as to burst some twenty minutes into the class. Understandably, the target was one of the stiff-upper-lip category professors.

On the appointed day, the scheme was put in motion. The device, kept just outside one of the class room windows, went off a wee bit earlier than planned, perhaps surprising even the planners and the executors. Its loud bang broke not only a few glass panes but also the envelope of gloom which had come to surround the gang. A beetroot-red-faced professor walked out of the class room in a huff, not before casting an acid-spewing eye on the assembly of students, most of whom were twiddling their thumbs, trying to make sense of what had transpired.

Masters Thos, Seabury and Edwin, of Wodehousean fame, would have heartily approved. So would have Stiffy Byng and Bobby Wickham, if they had happened to be around.

Summons from the Chairman were not late in coming. The entire class trooped into the corridor outside the seat of power. Few privileged ones were called in and given a sharp dressing down.

The nuclear fall-out

That is how it came about that the whole class of 1976 was suspended for a week. Much rejoicing took place. Revenue of some movie halls registered a quantum jump during the week. Restaurants in the vicinity and elsewhere registered brisker business.

1975 and 1976 batches, UBS, Panjab University, Chandigarh

1975 and 1976 batches, UBS, Panjab University, Chandigarh

Some members of the gang whose parents lived not too far away went off to gorge on their mother’s exotic dishes. Those who had stern and disapproving fathers decided to spend their time quietly on the campus itself. Some openly complained as to why the perpetrators of the ‘crime’ did not plan something more elaborate, something that would have merited a longer period of suspension!

In the course of your own academic career, you might have had quite a few juicy experiences which broke the spell of monotony which a regular classroom routine often entails. If so, how about sharing it here?!

*Note: The term UBS stands for University Business School of Panjab University, Chandigrah.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/an-ode-to-our-teachers

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/the-class-of-1976-some-encounters-of-a-musical-kind

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/the-class-of-1976-forging-the-lingering-bonds-of-friendship

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/the-class-of-1976-some-pseudo-academic-pursuits

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/the-class-of-1990-how-ubs-prompted-sandeep-mann-to-learn-management-from-movies)

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ashokbhatia

c1 (25)You can be forgiven if you think we, the people of India, have let you down,
We have deeply ingrained prejudices upon which many of us do frown;
Like an ostrich, or like the three monkeys of the Father of our Nation,
We refuse to hear, see or speak evil, or to examine our value fixation.

Our society needs to stop mistreating and tormenting those of your kind,
Killing the likes of you in the womb, denying them a healthy body and mind;
Treating them like mere toys, made to fulfill the males’ lustful impulses,
Prisoners to their patriarchical mindset, ignoring your appeals and curses.

Some of us would like to know why at all you went out on that fateful day,
Why did you have to flag a bus full of maniacs while finding your way?
Were you not being stupid when you dressed the way you did that…

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FEMALE POWEROften, you think of women as sex objects,

Disrobe them mentally while entertaining lascivious thoughts.

 

You believe they exist only to fulfil your bodily cravings,

Or to perform household tasks which are sheer drudgery.

 

You tease, torment and rape them, not caring what age they are,

But you are no match to their inner reservoirs of deep quiet strength.

 

You forget that many of them have made mighty kingdoms fall,

Scaled great heights in all fields of human endeavour.

 

You know she can open doors for herself,

Can kill cockroaches and lift gas cylinders.

 

She willingly takes up a roles which need empathy,

Keeping your home, hearth and family working in harmony.

 

She does not really need tips on driving,

Nor does she need your shoulder to cry upon.

 

Backed by her intuitive powers and higher EQ,

She can strike a better healthy work-life balance.

 

If there is a promotion to be had, she can get it on merit,

She can shatter glass ceilings all by herself.

 

If you stare at her, she can stare right back at you,

She can refuse to be intimated, bullied or silenced.

 

She can teach her sons to respect women,

And her daughters to respect themselves.

 

She is free to wear what she wants,

Work where she wants, shop where she wants.

 

You may overpower her in a moment of weakness,

But that fleeting pleasure could ruin your life forever.

 

She does not need you to empower her,

She is quite capable of empowering herself.

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If you happen to be a professional to whom the allure of becoming a director on the board of a company is irresistible, here is a confidential note written by the Chairman of an imaginary company to one such aspirant, listing out the unstated terms and conditions of the offer.

From: The Chairman, XYZ Ltd.
To: A wannabe Independent Director

“Dear Aspirant,

I am happy to know that you aspire to be an independent director on the board of our company. Whereas a formal letter of appointment would soon follow, I write to you in my personal capacity to explain the real rights and responsibilities of an independent director.

1. You shall be hired only for your fame, your excellent contacts and your eminence. Your subject knowledge, competence and seriousness of participation in the meetings are important but secondary to the scheme of things.

2. Our company believes that machinations of the management (read “real owners”) are supreme. Our business is run on a quarter to quarter basis. PROMOTIONSAny talk of business strategy, etc, happens against this background. You shall always remain an embellishment on the board and shall conduct yourself with grace and equanimity accordingly.

3. Please appreciate that the Chairman and the President/CEO are advised by the best brains in legal and accounting matters. Their word is final and binding.

4. For the sake of excellent PR, as also to keep our market image shining and bright, the company has a set of clear guiding principles, a sparkling vision document, an exemplary code of conduct, a well spelled-out corporate philosophy, a robust governance framework, a sound CSR policy and a clearly articulated intention of zero tolerance to graft, corruption or sexual harassment. However, based on exigencies faced in the business environment or the seniority of the person involved, the management reserves the right to be flexible in its approach towards enforcing the aforesaid.

5. During your tenure, you may discover some creative accounting practices resorted to by the company. You may come across audit notes which point out the calculated risks we take while planning our direct as well as indirect taxes. You may also discover highly ingenious ways in which we interpret the laws of the land. You shall be expected to put across innovative suggestions to further refine such practices. You shall not be expected to raise any objection to the same, whether in private or in public.

6. You shall be encouraged to represent a group of shareholders, or appear to be partial to a group of stakeholders of the company; provided, of course, that your performance shall always be evaluated based only on the key deliverables – namely, towing the line of the management and ensuring that the company’s image is protected and its business interests advanced at all times.

7. Should you become involved in any legal hassle owing to having not registered a dissent on issues of either corporate governance or legal compliance by the company, an issue-based support may be provided. In such an eventuality, the company reserves its right to publically disown you and terminate its association with you forthwith.

8. Any attempt on your part to form a group of Independent Directors shall be treated as an act of dissidence and betrayal by management. As a matter of corporate policy, we do not encourage dissent, whether expressed or otherwise.

9. In respect of any matter pertaining to the operations of the company, you shall never take a moral high ground and start teaching us ethics and value YES-MENsystems. The last thing we need is a lecture from a glorified employee, the real capacity in which you shall serve the company.

10. The company expects you to observe complete confidentiality even after the end of your term as an Independent Director.

11. Post-retirement, you shall undertake not to become a whistle-blower and seek protection under any such scheme offered by the government of the day.

12. Advances, affiliations and activities of an amorous nature attempted by you towards directors from the other sex shall be frowned upon; unless, these happen to be dictated by the business needs of the company and have prior tacit approval of the management.

Even if you do not appear in the database of prospective candidates maintained by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, we trust that you have so far been smart enough to ensure that your legal record is squeaky clean. We are sure that you shall continue to be vigilant on this score.

We look forward to a long-term mutually beneficial association with you. We welcome you as a part of the growing tribe of (perceived to be) independent directors in the country. We have no doubt whatsoever that you shall conduct yourself in a manner which would enhance the prestige and influence of this newly created labor market.

Yours truly, etc”

Background note:

Indian companies having a paid up capital of more than INR 100 millions and those whose aggregate outstanding loans, debentures and deposits exceed INR 500 millions are now required to have at least two independent directors on their respective boards. The new rules notified by the Government of India come into force from the 1st of April, 2014.

Likewise, some companies are now required to have at least one woman director on their board. For some, it is now mandated to spend 2% of their profits on CSR activities.

Hopefully, in the days to come, the newly emerging tribe of Independent Directors would play a far more effective role in ensuring that more companies conduct their affairs with better attention to transparency, ethical standards, gender diversity, environment protection measures and socially relevant investments.

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I have had the privilege of observing several business leaders at close quarters. Most of them are professionalsLEADERS who have become true blue leaders purely by merit. Some of them are owners and entrepreneurs who have built up a business empire by sheer innovation, risk appetite, organizational ability and hard work.

Here is a listing of some unique traits and habits which I believe make them exceptionally great leaders.     

1.   A Four-Dimensional Thought Process

Any issue being faced by great leaders is viewed through a four-dimensional lens. They possess the unique capacity to be able to see not only the spread, the reach and the depth of the problem at hand, but also its likely evolution over a period of time. They have good intuitive faculties.

Being both a visionary and a thorough person is important. All the four dimensions of a problem are intricately entwined. A great leader’s vision would be rooted in something big and motivational; it would also be backed by a detailed implementation plan, a contingency plan, and, of course, loads of hard work.

In other words, their vision and broad mental sweeps are matched by finer details. Their attention to detail could be annoying at times. Send them a note/mail with a typo and you are sure to earn a gentle reprimand. Attend a client meeting with them and your pencil color and tie pattern had better match that of the team!

Opening a sealed envelope and double-checking the figures and totals in a statement are habits they tend to have. Ensuring that an important letter is put in an envelope with the correct name, title and address of the recipient is another dimension of their spirit of perfectionism.

2.   Good Speakers but Better Listeners and Readers

Leaders who charm us would perhaps never be at a loss for words. They would conduct meetings with great finesse and nudge the discussion in a productive manner. But they would also know how to listen. Don’t be surprised to find them walking around with small cards to take notes when people talk.

Send them a well-drafted mail on a matter of critical importance and we can be rest assured it would be read with all the attention it deserves. A well thought-out response would invariably follow, if not a phone call or an invitation for a personal meeting.

For matters which are of a strategic nature, or involve a policy decision, they are never in a hurry to hit the send button.

Strong leaders like to hear alternate viewpoints. They have neither time nor patience for sycophants. Irrespective of the time or venue, they are always willing to listen. Of course, the final call on any issue is their own.

3.   A Hardened Love for People

They just love people, though it does not mean they cannot be hard on them. Understanding people and their problems comes naturally to them. In most cases, it is empathy at work and not sympathy.

If there is a personal problem, they would go to great lengths to assist us in finding a solution. If a mistake gets repeated, we can be sure of their coming down like a ton of bricks on the real defaulter amongst us.

Great leaders are invariably fair when it comes to apportioning blame. The policy they follow is that of praising in public and rebuking in private. The focus is always on finding a solution and not on witch-hunting.

They would never select a wrong person for the organization. Interviews for new recruits would be detailed and exhaustive. An exhaustive background check of a successful applicant would be done before a formal offer is made. A meticulous induction program would be in place. They would elicit feedback at all stages of our progress through the company and intervene in matters of career advancement wherever necessary.

They would not shy away from fixing tough targets. Performance would be their primary consideration. They would neither delegate nor avoid meetings where a negative feedback has to be shared with an employee. A person found wanting on initiative has no place in their scheme of things.

Zero tolerance for a breach in values and ethics happens to be one of their prime qualities. A case of immoral conduct would get settled quickly and effectively. It would not matter if it involves either a great performer or someone who has been ‘loyal’ to the organization all along.

4.   A Commitment is a Commitment

It is not easy to extract a commitment out of them. But once they commit to something, they would move heaven and earth to deliver on their promise.

Likewise, if we agree upon a target with them, we would do well to deliver on our promise. If we fail, the consequences could be disastrous for our career progression.

Each one has a unique follow-up system in place. Some have the habit of pulling out small scribbled notes from one of their pockets to check on the progress of tasks assigned and agreed upon. Some are sticklers for maintaining and updating their diaries – manual or otherwise. Once we appear on this follow-up radar of theirs, we would not find it easy to squiggle out of it till the time the task is indeed accomplished.

5.   A Stronger Moral Compass

Great leaders live by example. They create a culture which is at once innovative and results-driven, entrepreneurial and collaborative, socially responsible and pragmatic. To them, their moral and spiritual compass is as important as their business and financial compass.

At the core of their moral compass is an intra-preneurial approach. They might be employees themselves, but their vision, actions, behavior and responses would be totally entrepreneurial. They would walk around behaving just like the true owners of the business they are meant to govern. Try to fall foul of them on their basic value system and you could be getting a pink slip earlier than you think.

Smart leaders are also aware that gender diversity facilitates better decision-making at all levels of the organization.

6.   Straddling the Digital Divide

They have also perfected the art of balancing the digital world with their real world. They answer every email addressed to them. If they are part of the hapless ‘cc’ brigade, they do not hesitate to intervene if and when a multilateral dialogue on the mails becomes either unproductive or political in nature.

Somehow, they always find the time to communicate face-to-face. They strongly believe that if something is worth communicating, it is surely worth over-communicating.

We would not find them coming up with knee-jerk solutions to problems. Dispassionate at heart, they have somehow mastered the technique of always maintaining their equipoise, radiating positivity all around them.

Management can be learnt; leadership is basically inborn. The good news is that there are several leadership traits which can also be emulated and learnt.

Imbibing such traits needs a great deal of focus and sustained effort. The journey could well transform us into becoming better leaders, whose style would trickle down the organization. This would improve employee morale and behavioral consistency across the entire set up, thereby making the organization more effective.

 

 

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When a finer member of our species becomes the part of an all-men group, the results are obvious – better focus on the job at hand, a far more effective team, higher levels of decency and a groundswell of chivalrous overtures.

Chamaiporn Uerpairojkit

Chamaiporn Uerpairojkit

Better still, if she happens to be a CEO, we have a boardroom which is painted a deeper shade of pink, thereby driving away the boredom from the drab proceedings. We also have a crackling company which is more result-oriented and has better empathy while dealing with diverse stakeholders. We are also likely to get a greener and cleaner business entity which believes in corporate ethics and good governance.

In the Pink of Health

Several studies done in far-flung countries such as USA, France and Vietnam have shown that companies led by women deliver better financial results. A McKinsey study compared the top-quartile of companies in terms of share of women  in executive committees against companies that have all-male executive committees. It found that the former companies exceeded the latter by 41% in return on equity and by 56% in operating results.

Two studies have shown that companies with significant numbers of top women managers do better when compared to competitors in the same sector. The improved performance is in both in terms of such organizational aspects as innovation and accountability as also in terms of profit.

Wang Feng Ying

Wang Feng Ying

The tipping point is the key: At three members of the board, the benefits of women start to make a real difference. It appears that with that critical mass, female board members are more likely to come up with challenging questions and encourage the entire group to arrive at a more inclusive and better decision.

There are also studies which negate this view. The Credit Suisse Research Institute, acknowledging that it is hard to make sense of the many confusing and contradictory findings, came up with its own analysis. The study suggested that better performance by companies with female board members does not necessarily suggest that the women led to the stronger performance; it could also mean that companies that are financially successful tend to be more inclusive. Nevertheless, the authors concluded that “more balance on the board brings less volatility and more balance through the cycle.”

Eva Chen

Eva Chen

The Global Scenario

A Grant Thornton International Business Report released earlier this year concluded that 49 per cent of CEOs in Thailand are women, which is the highest proportion in the world. The global ratio was reported to be 24 per cent of senior management roles filled by women, up from 21 per cent in 2012 and 20 per cent in 2011.

In general, ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific regions are ahead of the global average with 32 and 29 percent female proportions, respectively. Vietnam and the Philippines are in the top 10, with 37 per cent of senior posts in the Philippines being held by women, down by two percentage points from 2012.

Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita

Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita

The G-7 economies appeared at the bottom of the league table with just 21 per cent of senior roles occupied by women. This compares to 28 per cent in the BRIC economies and a remarkable 40 per cent in the Baltic countries.

Japan was the worst performer with just 7 per cent of senior roles occupied by women. UK (19 per cent) and the USA (20 per cent) were reported to be within the bottom eight countries for women in senior management. In contrast, top of the table for women in senior management – not only CEOs – is China, with 51 per cent.

The report also revealed that proportion of women in senior positions depends on the sector under consideration. More than double the number of positions in the global healthcare sector was occupied by women than in construction or mining. The most popular top management position for women was reported to be chief financial officer, while chief information officer was the least.

If Thailand has Chamaiporn Uerpairojkit as a President of Henkel, Australia has Veronica Johns heading Fiat Chrysler’s operations down under. Di Humphries takes care of Pumpkin Patch in New Zealand, whereas Wang Feng Ying looks after the Great Wall Motor Company in China.

Eva Chen is the CEO of Trend Micro of Japan. Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita oversees the operations of Arcelor Mittal South Africa Limited.

Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala

Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala

Maria Asuncion Aramburuzabala fusses over Group Modelo in Mexico.

Women on Top

Globally, women have made it to the top in diverse sectors of businesses, ranging from IT, FMCG, chemicals, social media and banking. According to a Deloitte study, women comprise 12.5 percent of board directors on ASX 200 companies in Australia. Fortune lists an impressive array of powerful women, globally as also in USA. Think Ginni Rometty of IBM, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Ellen Kullman of DuPont, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo and you get a part of the picture in USA alone.

The European Commission proposed new rules last year to require companies listed in EU countries with more than 250 workers to have 40 percent of women on their boards by 2020. But Germany and other EU countries resisted, arguing that rules should be set at the national level.

Ginni Rometty

Ginni Rometty

According to German media reports, women currently hold about 12 percent of corporate board seats. Among the 30 largest DAX companies, women have 101 of the 488 board seats, or 22 percent, according to the DSW, Germany’s largest association of private investors. Coalition compulsions have now made the Angela Merkel government to introduce a legislation that will require German firms to allot 30 per cent of their non-executive board seats to women from 2016.

Norway, which is not an EU member, imposed a 40 per cent quota in 2003, a target reached in 2009. Norwegian companies can be liquidated if they fail to reach the target. However, a recent study by two University of Michigan professors shows that a government mandated quota led to younger and less experienced boards, thereby putting the businesses to higher risk.

In UK, the Cranfield report came up with the assertion that women hold more than one in five (21.8%) of non-executive FTSE 100 posts but still only account for little over one in 17 (5.8%) executive roles. That means there are just 18 women executive directors in Britain’s top boardrooms, against 292 men. Perhaps more alarming still, the Cranfield study found, among the broader top management tier at FTSE 100 firms – the key decision-making groups, known as executive committee members – the representation of women had fallen dramatically, down from 18.1% in 2009 to 15.3% today.

Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi

Susan Vinnicombe, co-author of the Cranfield report, suggested this shrinking pool of top-flight women managers made it harder for progress to be made with chief executive and finance director appointments. “Despite women dominating the fields of human resources, law and marketing … [executive positions in the boardroom] are still going to men, who are being promoted internally over experienced female candidates.”

Annika Falkengren heads SEB, a Swedeish Bank. Angela Ahrendts takes care of Burberry in UK, while Jonella Ligresti oversees the operations of Fondiaria-SAI of Italy.

Wanted: Women Directors in India

In India, men make up 94.7 per cent of the boardroom. A survey conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) earlier this year, across Commonwealth countries, found that India has one of the lowest percentiles of women in senior management positions, second only to Pakistan among the countries surveyed. In many cases, even when women are present in the board, they usually tend to be “sleeping partners”.

Kalpana Morparia

Kalpana Morparia

With the new Companies Act coming in force in India, mandating women’s representation on boards, companies are searching far and wide for good candidates. Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC, Kalpana Morparia of JP Morgan and  Renuka Ramnath of Multiples Alternate Asset Management are all busy running their own companies. It does not help that top women bankers like Chanda Kochhar and Shikha Sharma cannot be tapped because RBI rules do not allow bank CEOs to be on the boards of other companies except by rare special permission.

The first woman to head the SBI in its 206 year old history, Arundhati Bhattacharya, recently made headlines by joining the elite group of women who control banks and financial outfits in India.

Mallika Srinivasan is a well-known thought leader and strategist, heading TAFE. Vinita Bali heads Britannia, whereas Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw steers Biocon. Roshni Nadar takes care of HCL Corporation. Debjani Ghosh heads Intel’s operations in South Asia.

Chanda Kochhar

Chanda Kochhar

One of the highly respected business groups from India, Tatas, is already on a gender-diversity overdrive. Falugni Nayar, Vishakha Mulye and Ireena Vittal have recently joined select companies of the group.

A case in point is that of ICICI Bank where winds of a subtle change are blowing. Chanda Kochhar is making the company transform its work culture from a stress-ridden one to a more relaxed one. She has drawn an internal road-map to make the bank a service-led and not a distribution-led organization. One of the key challenges the bank is handling is to tone down aggression without losing its USP of being a dynamic and result-oriented organization.

According to information available in the public domain, out of India’s top 100 listed companies, 34 do not have any women directors. Demand for proven, independent women who are well experienced in board service, possess the required domain or functional skill experience and fit the culture of a company far outstrips supply.

Mallika Srinivasan

Mallika Srinivasan

In India, gender diversity is more pronounced in the banking sector. By nature, men and women are not better bankers. The conditioning by society perhaps plays a more important role in shaping up women’s skills in money management. One, they carry the burden of balancing the household budget. Two, they tend to be thrifty because they have to manage the household affairs within the resources provided by the bread-winner of the family.

The Glass Ceiling of Corporate Frauds

A study reported in one of the recent issues of the American Sociological Review found that only 9 percent of people involved in high-level financial  corporate conspiracies are women. The study also shows that female criminals stole less than their male counterparts. The study proposes that this could be happening because men see women as less criminally competent.

However, according to a survey of nearly 1400 global fraud cases from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, at the lower levels, women

Roshni Nadar Malhotra

Roshni Nadar Malhotra

made up 45 percent of the culprits. But at all levels, women steal less than their men counterparts. The difference lay in that women do it for a specific reason or purpose, whereas men tend to do it for longer periods, more as a habit of sorts. Women are brought up with an ‘ethic of care’ which means they are less likely to behave in a manner which hurts others.

Have Daughter, Be Gentler

In another study covering more than 10,000 Danish companies, a study done by Michael Dahl, Cristian Dezso and David Gaddis Ross found that CEOs paid lesser salaries to their staff after having had a son. But there was no reduction when they had a daughter! The hypothesis appears to be that daughters tend to make fathers more gentle and caring.

Studies led by Alice Eagly demonstrate that women tend to give more than their male counterparts in close relationships than men.

The Pink Shades of Philanthropy

Bill Gates believes that his mother Mary and wife Melinda are behind his philanthropic initiatives. At a wedding in 1993, Mary read out a letter she had written to Melinda: ‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected.’

It is quite likely that with more women at the helm of affairs, organizations may take their environmental and social responsibilities more seriously.

The Gender Bender 

Women tend to be more balanced and meticulous in their approach. Giving care and offering empathy comes naturally to them. Look across various companies and one would notice that most HR departments are wo-manned.

Annika Falkengren

Annika Falkengren

When it comes to the impact of women heading organizations, the jury is perhaps still out. Recently, professors at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and the University of Edinburgh examined two thousand firms and found that larger companies with bigger boards were more likely to add women. In other words, better performance was not necessarily due to women power in the top echelons.

In India, the challenge is to keep up a continuous supply of leadership talent of the delicately nurtured. This can be met only by progressive HR policies of organizations which proactively offer a level playing field to women enabling them to break the corporate glass ceilings.

Just as the Norway example has shown, it is debatable whether introduction of a government mandated quota is a good move. Yes, it does force

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

companies to do some soul-searching and ensure better succession planning while placing greater emphasis on gender parity. A positive beginning gets made. Over the long run, such steps would surely improve corporate governance levels and possibly check the cancer of graft and corruption nibbling away at the roots of India’s vibrant democracy.

Gender bias is deep-rooted in our psyche. Cultural bias and stereotyping restrains women from realizing their full potential. With her book ‘Lean In: Women, Work and Will to Lead’, Sheryl Sandberg has recently brought back the agenda of gender inequality on the global conversation map.

From Capitalism to Idea-ism

We are rapidly moving from capitalism to ‘idea-ism’ where the definition of capital is getting enlarged with each passing decade. The term capital covers not only the material and financial resources but also its softer and gentler variety – intellectual resources. In a world of this nature, gender parity can bring in a hitherto latent capital. A more efficient use of the same would be a key driver of competitiveness in the days to come.

The moves to paint our ‘bored-rooms’ a deeper shade of pink are endeavors in the right direction. Howsoever long it takes to achieve gender parity in business circles, the journey has begun.

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