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With fewer women on board of directors, Asia behind Europe, US

The richest man in China, Jack Ma of Alibaba Group Holding, has one woman on the board

Bruce Einhorn | Bloomberg 

Nita Ambani, Rio, Olympics 2016
Nita Ambani is the sole woman on the board  of Reliance industries. Photo: PTI

Even by Asia’s low standards when it comes to having women on corporate boards, the progress of the region’s billionaires is lagging: Most of the richest men in China, Japan and South Korea run companies with few, if any, female board members. 

The situation is particularly extreme among Asia’s biggest tech companies with billionaire founders. Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group, Takemitsu Takizaki’s bar-code reader and sensor-making Keyence, Pony Ma’s Tencent Holdings, Robin Li’s Baidu, Lee Kun-hee’s Samsung Electronics and Chey Tae-won’s chipmaker SK Hynix have all-male boards.

The richest man in China, of Group Holding, has one woman on the board.

While policy makers in Japan, India and elsewhere have sought to push for greater roles for women in corporate life, the world of clubby billionaires is slow to change. is almost the worst region in the world, behind Latin America, when it comes to having women in the boardroom, with an average of 7.8 per cent of directors, according to a study by Deloitte. In Europe, 22.6 per cent of directors are female, the study found.

“Guys often like to have their best friends, not the best people, on their boards,” said Susan Stautberg, CEO of Women Corporate Directors Foundation, a Florida-based group with members who sit on more than 8,500 boards worldwide. WCD is hosting a conference in starting Wednesday, and Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who in July became the first woman to lead the city government, will be the keynote speaker Thursday.

With fewer women on board of directors, Asia behind Europe, US

It’s not just tech Among the top five richest men in the three countries, according to Monday’s Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Tadashi Yanai of Japan’s Fast Retailing and China’s Wang Jianlin of Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties have no women on their boards. Nor do Suh Kyung-bae’s Korean cosmetics maker Amorepacific Group and subsidiary Amorepacific Chinese package delivery company SF Holding, founded by Wang Wei, has one. 

Alone among China’s top-five billionaires, Hui Ka Yan has two on his China Evergrande Group board.

While it would be difficult to argue that Asia’s women-less boards are contributing to poor performance, numerous studies have shown that having the perspective of women can help promote further excellence.

India is infact a better place to find women on corporate boards — following a 2013 law requiring Indian companies to appoint at least one female director. Technologies, run by Shiv Nadar, the fifth-wealthiest billionaire in India, is the standout. has three women on its board, including Nadar’s daughter, Roshni Nadar Malhotra.

L-R: Shiv Nadar, Mukesh Ambani, Azim Premji
L-R: Shiv Nadar, Mukesh Ambani, Azim Premji

 
The rest of the top-five Indian billionaires, including India’s top tech billionaire, Azim Premji of Wipro, meet the requirement with one. The sole woman on the board of Industries, run by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is his wife, Nita.
 
At Alibaba, although one-third of the founders were women and women hold about a third of senior management roles, Nestle’s chief executive officer for Asia, Wan Ling Martello, is the sole woman on the Hangzhou-based company’s board.

First Published: Wed, September 27 2017. 02:36 IST
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