Major companies around the world are fast realizing the importance of gender diversity in senior management positions. Women are rapidly emerging as strong contenders for C-Suite roles in multinational corporations. Disrupting conventional norms of business and breaking long-established glass ceilings, an increasing number of women are registering a strong presence on the corporate boards of multinational corporations in the country.
Empirical evidence has also pointed to the fact that there is a direct correlation between the number of women in the boardrooms of companies and their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) performance. Companies that place a strong emphasis on gender-inclusive leadership are better positioned to drive social innovation. Businesses with an increasing number of women at the helm of affairs do not solely aim at generating higher profits or bolstering revenue margins. Rather such enterprises are motivated by social entrepreneurship goals focused on bringing weaker sections of the population within the social and economic mainstream.
Women are rapidly emerging as thought leaders and change makers in corporate entities and playing a pivotal role in rolling out the core CSR vision of a company. They are ensuring that there is participative decision-making in CSR with an emphasis on openness, transparency and accountability. Organizations with a strong woman leadership team are realizing the potential of CSR as a key relationship management strategy to strengthen the ties between employees and top management. Known to be great communicators naturally, women are also being instrumental in effectively communicating the company CSR agenda to internal and external stakeholders.
Women leaders have a greater degree of compassion and empathy at the core of their belief systems and thought processes. They are increasingly prone to believe that CSR is an ethical and moral imperative broadly defining the vision and mission of an organization rather than being a mere policy mandate. Women in top leadership positions are highly ethical and morally vigilant when it comes to implementing the sustainability initiatives of their organization in a seamless and efficient manner.
Studies have shown that consumers are more inclined to transact business with companies having a higher degree of moral reputation and ethical behavior. The brand positioning strategy of a company is inherently dependent on how its CSR policy is implemented. Women board members with a strong moral conscience will need to take the lead in recalibrating company CSR outlooks to ensure a positive business reputation and build future goodwill in the minds of customers, employees and investors.
Companies which come under the purview of section 135 of Companies Act, 2013 are mandated to form a CSR Committee for the timely review and monitoring of CSR activities. Boards of such companies should ensure that women board members are inducted in increasing numbers in such committees and form a core part of its decision-making process. They should be made an intrinsic part of the company’s decision support framework for facilitating the judicious allocation of resources to various CSR programs.
The business landscape is rapidly changing with investment decisions of mainstream investors solely depending on how effectively companies integrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices into their core business philosophies. With the active participation and help of top women business leaders, organizations can seamlessly focus on leveraging their CSR programs to build a robust ESG profile. By emphasizing on a gender-diverse management structure, companies will be in a position to boost their sustainability profile.
Managements of Indian companies should focus on removing prevalent gender stereotypes in workplaces. The onus should be on providing strong corporate leadership roles for women and empower them with the means and resources to drive powerful social impact initiatives.