Listen Up: Indian Companies Add Women to Boards

By Ashley Marchand Orme


Board Composition Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Compliance Online Article

NACD’s Future Fluency podcast is back. The May 6 episode, focused on board diversity, features an interview with two researchers from Northeastern University who studied how companies complied with a board-level gender diversity mandate in India. In addition to chatting about their research, they offer points of comparison on compliance with similar laws in countries such as Norway.

Before jumping into the topic of diversity, the introduction to the episode acknowledges that India is experiencing a COVID-19 crisis and points to resources compiled by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation and US-India Business Council on how US businesses can respond.

The following are key takeaways from the episode:

  1. The gender diversity requirement acted as a forcing mechanism for these public companies in India to sharpen their director selection and nomination processes, according to podcast guest Ruth V. Aguilera, a distinguished professor in international business and strategy at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Since companies were required to bring a woman onto their boards, the nomination committees thought more critically about the exact skill sets for which they would need to recruit. Prior to complying with the diversity mandate, many of the boards had relied on adding people to the board who were within their own personal networks.

  2. The women selected for board seats typically were independent directors who had attained higher levels of education than their male counterparts. They often lacked the C-suite-level titles that the male board members had held. (This is unsurprising given how few women are elevated to senior management levels.)

  3. While the women added to boards in compliance with the diversity mandate were treated inclusively at the full-board level, they were often excluded at the committee level. They were sometimes not even assigned to one of the three traditional standing committees, which is where much important deliberation and governance work actually happens.

Listen to the episode “Beyond ‘Pinkwashing:’ Insights From Global Board Diversity Mandates” now on NACDonline.orgGoogle PlayiTunesSpotify, or Stitcher and follow or subscribe to stay up-to-date on future episodes. For more on diversity, equity, and inclusion, visit the NACD Diversity & Inclusion Resource Center or the NACD Future Fluency series page for previous episodes.

Ashley Marchand Orme
Ashley Marchand Orme is associate director of content and special initiatives at NACD.