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A Rising Wave: Women as Independent Directors in Indian Boardrooms

The landscape of corporate governance is undergoing a substantial shift worldwide, and India is no exception. More women than ever before are now assuming leadership roles and entering boardrooms. Interestingly, a significant proportion of this change is being witnessed in the role of the independent director. In this blog post, we'll delve deeper into this exciting trend, exploring the reasons behind it, its importance, and what it might mean for the future of businesses in India.

Independent Director

The Evolution and Importance of the Independent Director


Before we embark on our journey of understanding the rise in women independent directors, it's essential to comprehend what the role of an "independent director" entails. Simply put, an independent director is an individual who, while holding a directorship position, is not directly connected to the company’s owners. They serve to offer unbiased and balanced decision-making, providing unique insights and perspectives that can enhance the governance and success of a company.


The role of the independent director has gained prominence over the years, and this is largely attributed to regulatory mandates such as those proposed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) and stipulations in the Companies Act 2013. These rules mandate that every large listed company must have at least one woman serving as an independent director.


The Powerful Influence of Regulations on Women as Independent Directors


The Companies Act 2013, which made it obligatory for companies to have at least one female director, was a turning point for gender representation in India. Back in 2014, before these regulations took effect, women held a mere 6% of boardroom seats. The implementation of this act saw a seismic shift. A report by the Institutional Investor Advisory Services (IiAS) and APG Asset Management Asia, published in November 2022, shows that by 2022, the figure had surged to 18%.


Furthermore, women appear to have found more success in the role of independent director compared to general directorship roles. Data from primeinfobase.com reveals that women account for 24.7% of all independent directors. In contrast, the percentage of women in overall directorship roles is 19.7%.


The Global Rise of Women Independent Directors


While it's clear that regulatory mandates have spurred the increase in female representation in Indian boardrooms, it's interesting to note that such requirements are not universally present. Some of India's major economic peers, such as the UK, Japan, and South Africa, do not have mandatory quotas for women's representation on boards.

On the other hand, countries like France and Germany have implemented stringent rules. As a result, France has achieved a staggering 44.5% representation of women in boardrooms. Similarly, women represent 28.6% of the board in North America and 34.4% in Europe, signaling a broader global trend that's progressively gaining momentum.


What Lies Ahead: Envisioning the Future of Women as Independent Directors in India


The trend of appointing more women as independent directors in Indian corporations signifies the strides that have been made in enhancing gender diversity in the business sector. This progress aligns not only with regulatory requirements but also paves the way for companies to tap into a broader range of perspectives and experiences.


While there is still a long way to go to achieve gender parity, the uptick in women's representation as independent directors offers a glimmer of hope. As more companies recognize the value of gender diversity and as regulatory mandates continue to take effect, we can expect to see a further surge of women making their way into Indian boardrooms.

As we look forward, it becomes evident that this growing trend has the potential to change the dynamics of corporate governance not only in India but globally. Increased representation of women, particularly in independent director roles, provides companies with a more balanced and diverse set of voices in decision-making processes.


In conclusion, the journey of women in Indian boardrooms, more specifically as independent directors, is a remarkable testament to the ongoing transformation in India's corporate landscape. The continuation of this trend could serve as a blueprint for other nations aiming to encourage and promote diversity in corporate governance. It's a testament to how regulatory changes, corporate initiative, and social progression can lead to significant, positive transformations in the business world.


Our Directors’ Institute- World Council of Directors can help you accelerate your board journey by training you on your roles and responsibilities to be carried out in an efficient manner helping you to make a significant contribution to the board and raise corporate governance standards within the organization.

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