MNC boardrooms open doors to women leaders from India

Article by Aditi based on inputs by Meeta

Women business leaders from India are increasingly forming part of multinational boardrooms, as global corporations try to gain a greater foothold in the country, with expertise in financial markets, banking, legal and technology working in their favour.

The list includes current and former chief executives at big-name corporations such as J P Morgan India’s Kalpana Morparia, Capegemini’s Aruna Jayanthi, HPE India’s Neelam Dhawan and Apollo Hopital’s Preetha Reddy.

Latest ones in the list include bank Moelis’ Manisha Girotra, who has joined Naspers. A week ago, Naina Lal Kidwai, who helmed HSBC’s India operations, was also inducted into LafargeHolcim’s board.

“All these women have (made) great contribution and their selection would be entirely on merit, not just to tick the diversity box,” said Shailesh Haribhakti, chairman of audit and accounting company Haribhakti & Co. “Additionally, they have experience of working in India, which few other geographies can beat,” said Haribhakti, an independent director in many Indian companies.

“Globally, many boards are much more inclined to demonstrate diversity than we are in India, and the norm in many countries is 30% representation,” said Kidwai, who joined the board of the world’s largest cement and building materials company last week. In India, women comprised 21.1% of new board appointments, 8.6 percentage points higher than the average in Asia of 12.5%.

“These women bring the coveted and much-valued experience of working in a large growth market where they have learnt to tackle tough and challenging business situations head-on,” said Pallavi Kathuria, managing partner for Egon Zehnder’s India offices.

“India as a market is very important globally and boards feel (representation from) countries such as India and China is important on boards for more understanding,” Girotra said.

Already, several women from Latin America and Africa are on global corporate boards as companies have increased business presence in these regions.

“There’s an increasing demand for gender diversity, mandated or otherwise, on boards, which provides an opportunity for qualified women, including from India to join global boards,” said Vinita Bali, former head of Britannia.

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