Despite the fact that Section 149 (1) of the Companies Act of 2013 is praised for its progressive approach. Is a legal clause, however, enough to change the boardroom’s patriarchal climate?
The Companies Act of 2013, which overhauled the laws governing a corporation from its inception to dissolution, is regarded as significant legislation. The law intended to eliminate those provisions that were outdated and incompatible with changing business patterns. The lack of female participation in Indian corporations has been shocking. To address this inequality, Section 149(1) was enacted, which required the appointment of at least one woman director in certain types of corporations.
While this clause may appear to be an effective step toward achieving gender equality on the surface, company compliance, or rather non-compliance, reveals otherwise.
MANDATORY APPOINTMENT OF WOMEN DIRECTORS UNDER COMPANY’S ACT, 2013
Every listed company or public company with a paid-up share capital of 100 crore rupees or a turnover of 300 crore rupees or more must appoint at least one woman director, according to Section 149(1), which is read in conjunction with Clause 49 of the (Securities and Exchange Board of India) SEBI listing agreement and Rule 3 of the Companies (Appointment and Qualification of Directors) Rules 2014.
The Securities and Exchange Board of India has delayed the deadline for firms to nominate a woman director on their board of directors by six months, until April 2015. Around 180 of the 1456 National Stock Exchange companies had not chosen a woman director as of March 8, 2015. Women accounted for only 9.5 percent of total Board positions in 200 BSE businesses, according to the 2014 Catalyst census. While non-compliance by a number of organisations, including a few Public Sector Units, is a cause for worry, those that have complied deserve special attention.
In March 2014, 278 corporations made appointments in accordance with the rule, indicating that the appointments were made purely to demonstrate compliance without any change of heart. Approximately 612 of these women had non-independent directorships. Women from the promoter group held roughly 82 directorship posts among them (were part of the family). Companies such as Reliance Industries, Videocon Industries, JK Tyre and Industries, Bajaj Corp and TVS Motor Corp, Godfrey Phillips India, and others are just a few examples.
Companies that failed to appoint a single woman to their board of directors justified their actions by arguing that they were unable to identify competent women with relevant expertise. The procedure through which women directors are appointed, however, is the real reason for the non-appointments. When mentoring women or maintaining a database for them, the nomination committees do not take affirmative action. In 2011, India was placed 113th out of 135 nations on the Global Gender Gap Index, with only 29% of women in the workforce. The statistics reflect reality, and social and gender inequality is a primary cause of this.
Rather than assuring quantifiable changes, the focus should be on regulating the nominations committee’s structure and functioning.
In addition, the hiring process for women should be inclusive, with proper training opportunities. A vague legislative mandate paired with inadequate compliance will not solve the problem of gender imbalance unless there is a conscious attempt to hire women through affirmative action.
A FEMINIST APPROACH TO ADDRESSING GENDER INEQUALITY IN BOARDROOMS
Women’s experiences are not taken into account in the gender equality approach. These are the results of patriarchal tyranny, which is frequently disguised as “different.” Women are the only ones who face income disparities, employment insecurity, and economic reliance, in addition to other detrimental social problems. The all-too-common problem of a “leaking pipeline” stifles women’s progress and achievements. The term ‘leaking pipeline’ describes how women’s professional advancement is limited because they must conform to the social norm of being the primary carers for their families.
Aside from the law’s paternalistic tone, women have long been seen as the inferior gender, leading them to a plethora of cultural stereotypes. Women have been denied equal opportunities for reasons unrelated to their abilities or efficiency.
PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT OR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION?
A legal requirement that firms appoint women has been questioned as an unneeded rule. To answer this, it’s important to understand how patriarchy affects both public and private life.
The law is notorious for staying away from regulating people’s private lives, which is regrettably the most common place where women are oppressed owing to patriarchy’s problems. The public sphere, on the other hand, consists primarily of men who govern other gendered subjects by enacting laws that are devoid of feminine figures. The public sphere, on the other hand, consists primarily of men who govern other gendered subjects by enacting laws that are devoid of feminine figures.
In a particular situation, this can lead to a logical inference. This indicates that women’s autonomy is robbed by the systemic oppression they confront in the domestic realm. By separating them from traditional gender norms, they are forced to enter the corporate sector and hold high positions. As a result, laws are expected to correct social injustices and create possibilities through public regulation. The legislative requirement should simply be viewed as a gentle prod to instill the concept of gender diversity.
It is up to society to provide provisions so that, first and foremost, women receive an education and, as a result, advance in their careers. If this is accomplished, there will be no need for token appointments or a “business case” to achieve gender equality.
Section 149(1) may be the first step toward gender equality in the Indian corporate environment. However, given shifting conditions and continued non-compliance by businesses, it is important to reassess its efficacy. There is a pressing need to increase the number of women appointed to positions of power. Other amendments, such as requiring women to be appointed to independent directorships and extending the Act’s reach to new types of businesses, could also be beneficial.
Simple and non-specific legislative adjustments will not be enough to enable women to function at their best. Women must achieve equal authority in both public and private life in order to be able to make decisions and make choices for themselves. [xxxi] Corporations and the law itself should not erect any socio-cultural barriers, notably stereotyped presumptions about their skills and choices. Simply put, no justification based on a “business case” or “added advantages” should be required to ensure that women are represented equally in boardrooms. They should be able to engage freely since they have the “right.”
Author’s Name: Yashna Soni (Bennett University, Greater Noida)