Diversity lacking: India’s top banker
THE first female head at one of India’s biggest banks says a ruling forcing firms to appoint women directors to boards has eased chronically lopsided gender ratios – but warns too many firms are still failing to embrace diversity.
State Bank of India chair Arundhati Bhattacharya told AFP that the regulator’s moves to get rid of the “old boys’ network” and demand women were appointed to boards had led to posts being filled by family members. However, she said she was fine with that if they have the ability.
India changed its laws in 2013 to force publicly listed companies to have at least one woman among their board directors – around 96 percent of whom were men at the time.
After the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) regulator issued a comply-or-be-fined deadline in March 2015, firms scrambled to act, drafting in wives, daughters or other relatives to fill the spots.
“A lot of women who are getting inducted after SEBI’s rule are family members. And this isn’t a problem as long as they understand the business.
“But we believe it is important to get an outsider’s perspective,” said Ms Bhattacharya, who joined SBI in 1977 and rose through the ranks to the top of the country’s largest and oldest commercial lender.
As companies complain about a lack of talented women candidates for board-level jobs, her view is that they have not looked hard enough.
“Even today I find many people saying we don’t find properly qualified women. What they’re saying is they are not networked enough.”
The problem is not only at the top – only 27pc of Indian women work, which ranked India 120th among the 131 nations on female labour participation in 2013. –