New Delhi: Gender diversity in boardrooms is picking up, though at a slower pace, with women accounting for nearly 18 per cent of the directorships in the top 500 NSE-listed companies at the end of March this year, according to a study.
In the study titled 'Corporate India: Women on boards', proxy advisory firm Institutional Investor Advisory Services (IiAS) on Tuesday said that at a global level, boardroom diversity continues to improve with an average of almost 24 per cent female representation in corporate boardrooms. "India also has progressed in appointing women on company boards; from 6 per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent five years ago. Women now account for 17.6 per cent of directorships of the Nifty-500 companies.
"Although the number of women directorships is increasing, the pace of new appointments has faltered with just an aggregate 1 per cent increase over the last three years. Based on these current rates, India will take till 2058 to achieve 30 per cent gender diversity on boards," it said.
At the end of March this year, the Nifty-500 companies had 4,694 directorships, out of which 827 or 17.6 per cent were held by women.
According to the study -- for which IiAS partnered with the Netherlands' pension provider APG -- Europe and North America sit above the global average, with women making up 34.4 per cent and 28.6 per cent of company boards, respectively. Country-wise, France leads the pack at 44.5 per cent women representation on boards in 2021.
"On 31 March 2022, 48.6 per cent of the Nifty-500 companies had two or more women directors on their boards. This is a rise from 45 per cent on 31 March 2021 and 44 per cent on 31 March 2020," the study said.
As many as 159 companies had women representation in excess of 20 per cent of board composition, while this number was at 146 at the end of March 2021. The average age for women is 58.7 years (56 years in 2020) and that of their male colleagues is 62.3 years (61 years in 2020), showing that this age gap is slowly narrowing, the study noted.
As per the findings, women chair the boards of 22 Nifty-500 companies, while 25 women are CEOs and another 62-hold executive directorships.
"In aggregate, the Nifty-500 companies have 2,960 committees, for an average of 5.9 committees for each entity. 442 (14.9 per cent) of these are chaired by women and the remainder 2,518 by men," it said.
Further, the study said that PSUs (public sector undertakings) continue to fare poorly on gender diversity, given that several of them do not comply with board composition norms prescribed by regulations.
Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has also mandated the appointment of at least one independent woman director for the country's top 1,000-listed companies by market capitalisation.
IiAS Managing Director Amit Tandon said, "the approaching 2024 board refresh marking the end of the grandfathering of independent directors' previous tenure, provides a unique opportunity to reset the pace of change, by appointing 30 per cent women on boards.
"Corporate India must take the opportunity to refresh the board and build in stronger gender diversity. For this, boards need to change their lens away from mere regulatory compliance, to think about women as a share of the aggregate board size. The target must be, at the very least, 30 per cent," he said.