In a male dominated Board, women have to prove twice their worth to get into Board Rooms or other Leadership positions. It would be fitting to state that men are the biggest beneficiaries of the quota system. While Less than 5% are needed for species survival, mother nature has allowed them 50. Association of Independent Directors of India (AIDI) in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation & FORE School of Management recently hosted an exclusive seminar with an idea of creating a think-tank around the pressing issue.

The seminar on “Accelerating Gender Diversity on Boards & in Business Leadership” focused on the impact of unconscious bias and stereotyping on women’s performance as leaders. To sensitize senior Board Leaders and decision makers on the enriching impact of gender diversity for improved business performance, corporate governance systems and long-term sustainable development of organisations. Also, on improving the understanding of the connection between Emotional Intelligence and competent leadership skills & to identify strategies leading to behavioural changes that accelerate & maintain women’s access to seats on boards & leadership positions.

The event showcased prolific speakers from distinguished backgrounds. To begin the proceedings, Ms. Vladislava Ryabota (Regional Corporate Governance Lead, South Asia from the International Finance Corporation) delivered the keynote address to the audience in which she elaborated on the role played by IFC to promote good governance practices in board rooms across the global corporate spectrum.

Next to take the podium was Ms. Gagan Singh (Ex-CEO, JLL INDIA, Independent Director – Timex Group & Future Retail Ltd) who gracefully hosted an hour-long interactive session on “Unconscious Bias in the Board Rooms & Business Leadership & its impact on women”. She commenced the session by sharing her own journey & soon deliberated on the awareness that should be brought at every organization through efforts from the male board members in ensuring the inclusion of women as a part of the team & enabling them to bring forward their ideas and innovation. She also pointed out how statistics clearly manifest that while 57% of college graduates are females, only a meagre 10% make their way into the board rooms in Fortune 500 companies.

Dr. Sriparna Basu (Professor, FORE School of Management & a seasoned veteran on Emotional Intelligence) shared her views on Leveraging Emotional Intelligence to enhance Leadership skills in a layered manner through a spell bounding presentation followed by a thoughtfully conceived case study. The session captured the true essence of the seminar & triggered a few powerful debates.

Mr Prashant Saran (Ex-Whole-Time Director SEBI, RBI, CGI) soon took over to deliver a meticulously curated presentation which saw equal participation from the audience. The session lasted for a little over 30 minutes in which Mr Saran did a deep dive on the reasons leading to the gaps in building a robust pipeline for women leaders & then deliberated a few strategies that can be adopted to accelerate gender diversity on board rooms & in business leadership.

The seminar culminated with a panel discussion on “Igniting Strategies to Build woman Leadership Programmes” which further continued discussions and solutions that could bring a change to every successful organization. The esteemed group of panelists leading the consideration were Ms Lopa Rahman (Corporate Governance Officer, South Asia, IFC), Dr Vaijayanti Pandit (Advisor at Welingkar Institute of Management, Ex-Head FICCI West, Mumbai), Ms Veena Swarup Board Leader (Ex-Board Member & Director, Engineers India Ltd) and Ms Ranjana Deopa (Head of Women Leadership Programmes, The BD Foundation).

The session was vivaciously moderated by Mr. Rajiv Khurana, (Co-Founder Director, CMC, FIMC) who brings in a tremendous pool of experience in hosting chief mentorship programmes for both start-ups & established businesses. Mr Khurana breathed life into the dying moments of the event through his contagious energy & left no stones unturned in extracting unparalleled inputs from the participants to lead the event to its fitting end. The need to bring a thought revolution for women to build upon their skills and create a brand for themselves was highlighted, along with conducting director training programmes and workshops for both men and women across the nation.

Disclaimer: THE STATEMENTS HEREIN REPRESENT THE CURRENT OPINION AND BELIEFS OF THE AUTHOR ONLY AND NOT THE ASSOCIATION OF INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS OF INDIA (AIDI). UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ANYTHING IN THIS POST BE CONSTRUED AS INVESTMENT, LEGAL, TAX, REGULATORY, FINANCIAL, ACCOUNTING OR OTHER ADVICE.