still missing from India's politics
Despite a more than decade long
campaign to get more women's representation in India's legislative
bodies, including parliament, women are still missing from
politics as patriarchal attitudes create doubts in their own minds
New Delhi: As the
world celebrates Women's Day Tuesday, a striking facet in the
otherwise male-dominated corporate world in India has been the
representation of women in the top echelons of banking and
Consider this: The country's second largest commercial lending
institution, ICICI Bank, is headed by a woman, Chanda Kochhar; so
is the case with the third largest in the private sector, Axis
Bank, which has Shikha Sharma on the top seat.
One of the largest foreign banks in the country, HSBC, and the
Indian arm of the global financial powerhouse JPMorgan Chase are
also headed by women, with Naina Lal Kidwai and Kalpana Morparia
respectively overseeing their operations.
Even the Reserve Bank of India, until recently, had two women
among four of its deputy governors in Usha Thorat, who has
retired, and Shyamala Gopinath, who is still serving the apex
"Women have this thing with numbers, finance and money. The
banking industry gave them equal opportunities and they have
excelled," Finance Secretary Sushma Nath, who is herself the first
woman to occupy the top post in North Block, told IANS.
In fact, a look at the composition of the top brass of 11 top
listed banks on the Indian stock markets reveals that nine of them
have at least one woman on their boards and two of them have women
serving as chief executives.
This is backed by a recent study of 240 top Indian companies by
EMA Partners, the global executive-search firm, which says more
than a half of India's women chief executives are accounted for by
the banking and financial services industry.
"The banking and financial services industry has seen the presence
of more women on top than any other industry. In fact, women chief
executives among the private sector and foreign banks would almost
outnumber men in this sector," the study said.
According to Alok Khare, president of the All India Bank Officers
Association, out of about one million bank employees in the
country, 15-17 percent are women. "But in metro centres and
cities, 27-30 percent are women," Khare told IANS.
What are the reasons for this pleasant exception to the male
bastion that the corporate world is?
"Some of the operational challenges in terms of gender aren't
there in our banking and financial services industry," said Aruna
Sundararajan, who was till recently the chief executive for
digital inclusion at Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services
"This industry also does not need the kind of networking that is
otherwise required in the corporate sector. It has also provided
equal, merit-based opportunities to women," Sundararajan, now a
joint secretary in the urban development ministry, told IANS.
Experts say the answer to this also dates back to 50 years when
then prime minister Indira Gandhi nationalised 14 top banks in the
country, followed by seven more in 1980, and made them adopt a
common process of recruitment through competitive tests.
Besides, the working hours of banks were suited to serve the
woman's domestic schedules, there was physical proximity to the
place of work, the job offered an element of respectability and
the profession did not require physical labour.
The result: Banking became a vocation of choice for career-minded
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