KOCHI: A large number of Kerala-based companies are likely to fail to comply with the requirement of having at least one woman member on their boards as the deadline for adhering to the new rule expires in about three weeks.
As of now, only nine out of the 23 companies in Kerala comply with the rule of having at least one woman director on their boards.
Of the nine companies that meet the requirement, three have appointed a close relative of the owners (V-Guard, Wonderla Amusement Park & Resort and Kerala Ayurveda) to the board.Meanwhile, the State Bank of Travancore escapes action by default as the boss of State Bank of India, Arundhati Bhattacharya, also heads the board of its Thiruvananthapuram-headquartered arm State Bank of Travancore.
As per the Companies Bill-2013, all listed companies should appoint at least one woman board member by October 1, 2014.
Some of the noted Kerala-based companies that are yet to appoint a women board member include Muthoot Finance, Manappuram Finance, South Indian Bank, Dhanalaxmi Bank, Kitex Garments, GTN Textiles, Kerala Solvent Extractions, AVT Natural, Accel Transmatic, Nitta Gelatin and Vertex Securities.
According to Indianboards.com, a database of listed firms, as many as 755 of a total of 1469 companies listed on the National Stock Exchange, representing 51 per cent of all the companies, have not adhered to the ‘woman director’ norm yet. The record of Kerala, where nearly 57 per cent of the companies are yet to comply with the rule, is worse than the national average.
C J George, managing director of Geojit BNP Paribas, which has two women on its board, said that lack of qualified women professionals was not the reason behind the male-only boardrooms of corporate India.
“In India, cases are filed against companies and their board members on flimsy grounds. Women refuse to join the board due to the fear of getting involved in court cases,” he said.
Cochin Stock Exchange former chairman K V Thomas said that finding directors on the board itself was becoming difficult for listed companies.
“There is a shortage of professional directors in India. Most of them do not know what their responsibilities are,” he said.
Thomas agreed with George’s view that women are scared of joining the board due to possible court cases. Only 5 percent of the working women in India make it to senior leadership positions, according to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index. Meanwhile, the global average is 20 percent. India’s ranking in the index, which covers 135 countries, is a pathetic 113.
Pamela Anna Mathew, managing director of OEN India, which was a listed company until 2007, said that she wished the one-women rule was introduced at least 15 years ago.
“Had it been, we would have seen many more corporates emerging to create wealth for the nation and for the people behind the initiative. The late introduction of the rule, which is an acceptance and acknowledgement of the capabilities and effectiveness of women in the corporate world,is certainly appreciated,” she said.