New Delhi: Get over the adage that claims behind every great man, there is a great woman. A study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA ML) says that behind every great company's board of directors, there are at least two. And yet two of the biggest PSUs in the Maharatna category do not have even one woman director on board — NTPC Ltd and BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited). There are a total of 10 Maharatnas and 14 Navratanas in the public sector. The Companies Act, 2013 mandates that the board of directors of every company should have at least one woman director on board. In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had directed the top 500 companies to appoint at least one woman independent director by April 1 this year.
Barring NTPC and BHEL, even though all the other Maharatna and Navratna PSUs have complied with the requirement, only six PSUs have women directors in key managerial roles. The list includes SCI (Shipping Corporation of India), ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation), SAIL (Steel Authority of India Limited), PowerGrid, BEL (Bharat Electronics Limited) and NBCC Ltd.
On the top of the list is Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), which is the only company among the Maharatna and Navratna PSUs to have a woman Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) — HK Joshi. Joshi also holds additional charge of the Director (Finance) post. Barring Joshi, there's another woman director on the SCI board who is serving as Director (Liner & Passenger Services) — Sangeeta Sharma.
The rest of the list includes PSUs like GAIL India, Indian Oil, HPCL (Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd), Coal India, BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd), CONCOR (Container Corporation of India), (EIL) Engineers India Ltd, HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd), NALCO (National Aluminium Company), NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation), NLC India Ltd, OIL (Oil India Limited), PFC (Power Finance Corporation), Vizag Steel and REC.
Complying with the norms, even though these PSUs have appointed one woman as an independent director, but nowhere do women occupy key managerial roles on the board of directors. While the appointment is crucial, the role of an independent director is that of a watchdog and comes with little powers. It ensures the representation of women but looks over participation.
Independent directors act as a guide to the company. Their roles broadly include improving corporate credibility and governance standards functioning as a watchdog, and playing a vital role in risk management. Independent directors play an active role in various committees set up by the company to ensure good governance. The Companies Act, 2013 stipulates that independent directors should make up at least two-thirds of the directors in the audit committees of listed companies to oversee the financial reporting process and disclosure of the company's financial information, ensure compliance with listing and other legal requirements, disclosure of related party transactions and qualification in the draft audit report, among other things.
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