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Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Last updated on: December 1, 2009 18:49 IST

Image: Women CEOs make their mark in India.
Rediff Business Desk

India Inc is dominated by men. Women do not have proportionate representation in companies, and yet they are better off than women in other parts of the world when it comes to top positions.

Eleven per cent of 240 large companies -- Indian-owned as well as multinational, private as well as state-owned -- have women CEOs, according to a study carried out by executive search firm EMA Partners. By contrast, only 3 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs.

Still, most experts say women are under-represented in corner offices across the world. "Given that roughly about 50 per cent of our population is female, that about 50 per cent of staff is female in most markets, the gender is hugely unrepresented in boards and at the CEO level," said EMA Partners International chairman James Douglas.

"For instance, out of 1,000 public companies in the USA, with at least $1 billion in annual revenue, there are only 30 female CEOs. In the UK's FTSE 100 list, there are just three."

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Chanda Kochhar, CEO and MD, ICICI Bank.
Photographs: Reuters

Chanda Kochhar

The financial services sector is dominated by women in India. As many as 54 per cent of the women CEOs are, according to EMA Partners, in financial services.

Chanda Kochhar is among the leading women in India's financial services sector. She took over as managing director and CEO of ICICI Bank from May 1, 2009.

According to Chanda Kochhar who was appointed as ICICI Bank's new chief executive officer, companies must consider merit and not be biased to any gender and women should not expect to be treated differently in any field.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Shikha Sharma, CEO and MD, Axis Bank.

Shikha Sharma

Shikha Sharma heads Axis Bank.  Shikha Sharma worked with the ICICI group for 28 years. Sharma is credited for the bank's growth in personal financial services.

"Amongst private and foreign banks, women almost outnumber men. This has been helped in no mean measure by women from ICICI Bank who have joined other financial institutions in recent times," said EMA Partners managing partner K Sudarshan.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Kalpana Morparia, country head of JPMorgan.

Kalpana Morparia

Kalpana Morparia is the country head of JPMorgan. Morparia worked for 33 years with the ICICI Group. She became a part of the board of directors in 2001, and later became joint managing director at ICICI Bank.

Morparia was instrumental in developing ICICI's well-diversified financial services business.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Renuka Ramnath.
Renuka Ramnath

Former chief of ICICI Venture Renuka Ramnath launched the Multiples Alternate Asset Management in 2009.

Multiples is raising their first private equity fund targeting both domestic and international institutional investors and ultra high networth individuals.

The target size is approximately $400 million.  Multiples Alternate Asset Management will make sector-agnostic investments in India.


Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Naina Lal Kidwai, CEO, HSBC
Naina Lal Kidwai

Naina Lal Kidwai is the CEO of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, India. Fortune magazine listed Kidwai among the World's Top 50 Corporate Women from 2000 to 2003. She has been awarded with Padma Shri, one of India's highest civilian honours.

According to various studies and EMA Partners' estimates, there is no shortage of female talent. In Germany, over 25 per cent executives are women, in the UK more than 30 per cent and in France over 35 per cent. In board appointments, the numbers decline further.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Meera Sanyal, CEO, ABN Amro Bank (now RBS).
Meera Sanyal

Meera Sanyal was appointed as CEO of ABN Amro Bank  in December 2007.

Sanyal was working as corporate executive vice president and head of services (Asia) of ABN Amro. She was earlier the chief operating officer of the bank.

In Germany, just over 10 per cent of board members are women, according to EMA Partners. In France, it is as low as 7 per cent.

To address this imbalance, some countries have insisted on minimum levels of board female members. Norway, in 2004, inaugurated a quota system stipulating that 40 per cent of the board of a publicly quoted company should be women otherwise that company could be delisted. In 2007, Spain decided to go the same way.

The Royal Bank of Scotland took over ABN's assets globally, including in India, early this year.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Manisha Girotra, MD, UBS.
Manisha Girotra

Manisha Girotra heads UBS in India.  Girotra has over 18 years of experience in investment banking. Girotra has worked on the privatisation of the Indian Petrochemicals Corporation, Tata-SIA's bid for Air India and Scottish & Newcastle's investment in the UB group.

Ashu Suyash heads Fidelity Fund Management. In the Fortune 500 list, only 7 per cent women CEOs are from financial services.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, MD, Biocon.

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Eleven per cent of the Indian women CEOs are in the media and another 11 per cent in pharmaceuticals.

Thus, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is the chairman and managing director of Biocon and Villoo Morawala Patel is the founder, chairman and managing director of Avesthagen.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Neelam Dhawan, CEO, Hewlett-Packard.

Neelam Dhawan

Eight per cent of women are in consulting and another 8 per cent in FMCG and consumer durables. The big names here are Vinita Bali of Britannia and Nadia Chauhan of Parle Agro.

Four per cent each can be found in manufacturing and IT & IT-enabled services. The largest personal computer company in the country, Hewlett-Packard , is headed by Neelam Dhawan.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo, with her daughter.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi.
In the Fortune 500 list, in contrast, 48 per cent of the women CEOs came from FMCG and consumer durables. Manufacturing and IT & IT-enables services returned 13 per cent each.

Sudarshan said the IT and IT-enabled services do not have many women CEOs because it requires a fair amount of travel to on-site locations. It also comes with the pressure of working through multiple time zones.

Women CEOs who broke the glass ceiling in India

Image: Rajshree Pathy, MD, Rajshree Sugars.

Rajshree Pathy

Manufacturing has traditionally not attracted too many women because of the nature of the business and the location of factories in the interiors. Thirty-five per cent of the women CEOs, according to EMA Partners, are also promoters of their companies.

This includes Rajshree Pathy who runs Rajshree Sugars & Chemicals and Meher Pudumjee who is the chairperson of Thermax. The other 65 per cent are professional CEOs.