Press release

EY launches Board Readiness Workshops for Women in India

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New Delhi, 18 August 2014: With women under-represented on corporate boards around the world,   leading professional services firm EY has noted in a latest paper that a three-part framework comprising focused government attention, corporate transparency and committed private sector leadership is necessary to making progress on this important issue. The EY paper, titled ‘Women on boards: global approaches to advancing diversity’ assumes significance now as India Inc is grappling with compliance with the recent regulatory changes to have atleast one woman director on their boards by 1 October 2014.

As of 2013, only 4.7% of India’s corporate directors were women, notes the paper. This compares with 40.5% for Norway which has the highest share of women on boards; 20.7% in the U.K; 16.9% in the U.S; 7.7% in Brazil and 1.2% in the UAE.  That board diversity enhances corporate performance and failure to address the gender gap can have economic consequences has been borne out by ongoing research, the paper has commented.

With a view to enabling Indian women directors to succeed in their board roles, EY also announced the launch of its Board Readiness Workshops for Women later this month, which are aimed both at existing women directors or those who are expected to take up these positions shortly (www.ey.com/WomenOnBoard). A panel of experienced directors and EY professionals will be conducting the workshops.

According to the paper, increased attention from public officials keeps pressure on the private sector and results in faster change.  This has taken the form of governments championing voluntary targets such as in the U.K, and other  related initiatives, though  mandatory quotas appears to have been the most common move to enhance diversity. More than 20 countries have adopted quotas for women on corporate boards, cites the paper, including India, where all listed companies must induct a woman director by 1 October 2014 and other public unlisted companies with certain turnover and/or paid-up share capital thresholds must comply by early next year.

 Says Sonu Iyer, Partner and Diversity Leader for EY India, “The introduction of quotas will help to achieve greater diversity on corporate boards, but it is equally imperative to make significant investments towards enabling women to take on board positions for them to make an impact in these roles.  This entails including both women in recruitment and promotion pipelines of organizations, as also providing dedicated learning and mentoring programs to women.

In this context, the paper adds that private sector commitment is necessary to lead to improved gender diversity on boards and senior leadership ranks, calling for diversity measures to be implemented across the organization with key performance measures and HR policies, also pointing to support from men, who still tend to be in most senior leadership positions.

Finally, the paper underscores the importance of corporate governance and disclosure standards, moreso for listed companies, which includes requirements on reporting gender diversity policies, giving investors the information they need to hold companies accountable.  The EY paper points to markets where investors are looking at board diversity in the broader context of board turnover and length of services of directors. Fundamentally, investors want to ensure that directors have the right qualifications and there is a process in place to evaluate directors and succession plans, notes the paper. It also highlights that gender specific requirements in certain markets have prompted diversity disclosures that go beyond gender diversity.

According to EY, the emphasis should be on action on these three fronts i.e. government focus, private sector commitment and corporate transparency, which can lead to real results that will benefit companies and investors.  Visit www.ey.com/WomenOnBoard to know more. The EY Board Readiness Workshops for women are planned on 28 August in New Delhi and 25 September in Mumbai.

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Notes to Editors

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