ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bringing Women on Board

Corporate India is wrong to drag its feet on appointment of women directors.

Coaxed and prodded by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), listed companies in India began appointing a woman member on their board of directors since the beginning of 2015. SEBI had set 1 April as the deadline for compliance since the earlier one of 1 October 2014 failed to get much response. The mandatory clause in the Companies Act, 2013 (along with the threat of a hefty graded penalty for breach of the rule) and the fact that it evokes the highly controversial aura of “reservation” have led to a great deal of angst about “ramming” gender equality down corporate throats. Only a small minority of opinion has hailed SEBI’s move. Corporate India or India Inc, as the pink newspapers call it, has rarely been a beacon of social affirmation and equal opportunities.

Whether it is about employing qualified persons from among the disabled, giving equal employment opportunities to people from marginalised castes and communities or any other socially or environmentally responsible act, it has almost always been found wanting. India’s corporates have jealously guarded their “right” as the private sector to appoint on the basis of “merit.” The little that India Inc has done for equal opportunities, representation and social responsibility has been, with rare exceptions, only to gain publicity through philanthropy. The same law also makes corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory. Many companies, the big ones at any rate, did have “social work” projects which were run by designated company staff or were in collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The factor here is either the “goodwill” earned for the company brand, or, perhaps more importantly, the tax concessions that accrue.

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