Indian firms mock gender diversity as boardroom deadline passes: analysts

Wed Apr 1, 2015 1:02pm EDT
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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Corporate India has made a mockery of an order to appoint women directors by recruiting wives, daughters and even stepmothers, analysts said on Wednesday as the deadline set by regulators for boosting gender diversity in the boardroom passed.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) last year imposed a quota of at least one female director on the board of every listed firm, and last month SEBI head U.K. Sinha warned of "very serious" consequences if companies did not comply.

Despite a last-minute rush of appointments to meet the April 1 deadline, more than 100 firms have not complied, and many of those which have, have responded by installing company bosses' female relatives with no professional experience, analysts said.

"It's a mockery of the law. The compliance has substantially been done in letter and not in spirit," Pranav Haldea, Managing Director of PRIME Database, a market research group, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"More than half the companies have appointed their relatives onto the board, who will speak in the same voice as their promoters and so the diversity being sought by SEBI has been defeated."

Figures from the PRIME database showed 189 out of 1,457 relevant firms listed on the National Stock Exchange of India had not appointed any women directors by 4.30 p.m. on April 1, indicating that 58 firms had named a woman director in the past 24 hours.

Reliance Industries, India's largest conglomerate by market value, has installed the wife of Chairman Mukesh Ambani, while the stepmother of tycoon Vijay Mallya now sits on the board of Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilizers.

Other companies which have appointed female relatives of key executives as directors include Raymond Ltd, Asian Paints, Godhra Phillips, Videocon Industries and JK Cement.   Continued...