A programme to make women 'board-ready'

New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) It has never been a cake walk for women to the top. To ensure high positions in the boards of various companies, Arun Duggal, chairman, Shriram Capital, plans to mentor 100 eligible women by next July to make them what he says "board-ready".

Along with Anjali Bansal, managing director of Spencer Stuart's India business, Duggal has started a programme to impart such crucial mentorship programme to women who are eligible for corporate board of director position.

The programme is in sync with the mandate in the new Companies Bill, which holds that at least one woman be made a company board director.

The presence of women in corporate boards in India is abysmally low. In New York, it is 16 percent and in Norway 40 percent, whereas in India 60 percent of the BSE 500 companies do not have a women director on their board. Out of the remaining 40 percent, 20 percent do not have independent directors. The presence of women in companies with independent directors is only two percent.

Duggal said this programme ensures that eligible women are well-prepared and trained to be successful. There are around 55 chairmen and directors from various companies across the country who will impart necessary training to these women. Names like Deepak Parekh, HDFC Chairman, KV Kamath, Non-Executive Chairman, ICICI Bank, Hari Bhartia, co-chairman and founder, Jubilant Bhartia Group, will impart training.

"We have just started the programme. It will be a 3-4 months programme. We are not charging anything. We have already enrolled 20 aspirants and are receiving many applications on a regular basis. By next July I hope to get 100 women trained and placed on various boards," Duggal told IANS.

He is hopeful that the first placement will happen very soon.

Duggal plans to institutionalise this programme under any of the top B-Schools of the country within a year and is in talks with various institutions.

"Our main thrust is not only to prepare women to join boards but to place them on board and to ensure that these women are effective on boards," he said.

The programme is conducted by sending some reading materials - articles, cases of corporate governance, excerpt from Companies Act and Securities and Exchange Board of India's (SEBI) requirement - and then arranging a few meetings between the mentors and mentees. In this programme, every mentee has one dedicated mentor.

"I hope that within five years Indian corporate boards will have at least one-fourth women members," he said.

Once this programme is institutionalised, Duggal plans to open a corporate governance resource centre, which will be a repository of knowledge for corporates. It will have lawyers, accountants, compensation specialists and investment bankers as advisors.

(Aparajita Gupta can be contacted at aparajita.g@ians.in)