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Globally How Many CEOs Are Women?

Government of India has to focus & ensure women independent directors on all 300 odd PSU boards.

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While gender equality is a professed objective world wide, ground realities are far removed from this, especially in the business sector.Visual Capitalist studied the data upto Sep 2019,of all women CEOs of companies listed on the S&P index .The findings show only 5.6% of such companies ,have a woman at the top.
 
The most notable company appears to be Accenture , because it has an avowed aim of putting 25% women as Managing Directors in their global operations, by 2020.No other firm has made such tall claims ,despite the fact that each company talks from the rooftop, of Gender equality in their Boards. Julie Spellman Sweet has taken over in Sep 2019 & is already crowned  Fortune magazine 's  most powerful woman.
 
Historically,it is gathered that only 70 women have reached the mantle of CEO in S&P Index firms,and only 28 are currently in this position.Only 1 out of these is from India , Indira Nooyi which is quite a feat ,as most countries of the world outside USA, donot figure in this list.
 
Evidently 14 lady CEOs belong to the retail sector , the most preferred by women instinctively. Engineering & technology is not far behind, having clocked 10 women CEOs.The most sensitive finance sector has also witnessed 9 women leading from the front.Food & Beverages, another chosen field ,has thrown up 7 top performers.Utilities also accounts for 7 women in number 1 position.
 
The next question is how long do women serve as CEOs?. Data shows that the longest serving one , from 1980 to 2006, a total of 27 long years, is Marion Osher Sandler  who not only cofounded Golden West Financial Corporation,but had the grand honour of taking it to become a $125 billion company.....a no mean achievement by any standards.
 
Being at the helm for 20 years, is another remarkable lady Debra A Cafaro, who  headed Ventas Inc, a real estate investment trust(REIT).She is credited with superlative performance of 2550% returns during this period, indicative of an unparalleled feat globally.
 
Next in line is a software freak with 16 years as CEO , in 3 different organizations,starting with Ebay in 1999 & ending with Hewlitt Packard last year . Meg Cushing Whitman could give a run for his money to any Male in that league.

Such performances are truly amazing & a source of big inspiration to B school women, around the world today.
 
Generally the question asked is  how have these women CEOs performed?. CNBC did an overall analysis in 2019 ,& reported that 50% of the women outperformed the S&P 500 index consistently, & some surpassed it by 1000% & above.Leaves little doubt about the ability of these  top ranking women.
 
And yet USA data reveals 2 astonishing facts.....McKinsey 's study on gender equality in business finds that as against 6% women CEOs in 2015, it has shrunk to 5.6% ,instead of growing further.This is attributable to lesser number of females being hired at entry level ,which is bewildering, because campus recruitment is supposed to be gender neutral.
 A pattern emerges, as data reveals that ,at each subsequent stage also the number of women continues to drop.Is there a sinister design???
 
Most countries of the world have a similar issue. In India , despite SEBI'S strict guidelines of at least 1 woman director on each Board,  many Boards are found wanting in this ,especially PSU Boards. Out of  7 boards that I was a nominee director of the Commerce & Textile Ministries,
 only 2 Boards had women representation.No effort was made to consciously scout for good women directors, which is the primary step for becoming a CEO.
 
Government of India has to focus & ensure women independent directors on all 300 odd PSU boards. Through the Ministry of Corporate affairs , it can also make sure, that all private companies also adhere to this principle in letter & spirit. Only then will capacity building be done for future women CEOs in this country.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Women CEOs

J.K. Dadoo

The author is a retired IAS officer

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