While there has been an improvement in the number of women holding positions in boardrooms, the participation rate continues to remain low as compared to the workforce.
The number of women holding board positions in companies has increased over the years but this increase has been quite slow.
From 12.4 percent participation rate in 2017, only 17.1 percent Indian women are board members in 2022 a report by Deloitte. Other democracies such as Australia, Canada and France have fared better as they are 15-20 percent higher when compared to India.
“People took me less seriously. They expected a boss higher up who is a male. My male subordinates were reluctant to report to me. Nobody believed my achievements; they said it was my contacts that got me here. So, yes it was hard to get here,” said Kavitha M, a board member at D1 Fortification.
The Karnataka State Commission for Women states that there are many factors contributing to this low rate. The Chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Women, Pramila Naidu said, “A lot of this is because of harassment and discrimination at work. We get a lot of complaints of harassment from working women. Other reasons for this are child marriage, work-life balance, and the like.”
“To tell you the reality, this 17 percent is also because there is a compulsion from the government to have at least one female board member. I have seen boards with just one woman and ten other men. Their positions are just ornamental,” said Arundhati Dhar, a board member in several; companies.
From 98th position in the Global Gender Index in 2006, India has fallen to the 140th position in 2021. “Where we stand in terms of gender equality is really sad. The board rooms are so male dominated, and it is so cyclic that there is no female representation. Women are made to feel that they cannot aspire to such positions” said Sania Dogra, a women’s rights activist. The Karnataka State Commission for Women aims to have more awareness programs for working women this year.