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Women in top leadership positions risk-averse? Research suggests so

Women make up the largest new cohort entering leadership positions in corporate India the corner rooms

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee  |  New Delhi 

women in leadership positions
India is one of the first developing countries to have enforced a quota ensuring at least one woman director in the board of companies | Representative image: iStock

Women holding top leadership positions in the country are not particularly fond of taking risks, findings from a recent study suggest.

The study, which surveyed women leaders in companies across the Capital Region (NCR), notes that 95.3 per cent of them do not use risk engineering or risk management tools.

The numbers, however, do not clearly analyse the general use of risk management tools in these companies. Hence, it is difficult to clearly state if the attitude impacts their companies too.

The study — commissioned by Raheja QBE Insurance with a management school Bimtech — among 165 women in roles in listed, unlisted and start-up companies, is, however, at odds with more careful ones done on women and risks.

Similar studies by the University of Exeter show women can be just as risk taking as men, and, in some cases, even more. But the QBE-Bimtech study on risk behaviour by women leaders is on a par with other recent studies that show India’s corporate sector need to accelerate their internal process of risk management.

Experts from Singapore Global Convention, 2018, quoted in the story by PTI, said, “Improvement in business operations (on risk) among Indian companies is slow and needs to be on a par with the American and European standards.”

While it one can infer that the trend for risk aversion comes from the fact that the women in these companies are often from the same families as promoter directors, the numbers invalidate that.

While there are only 98 promoter women directors in the study, representing 16 per cent of the NIFTY 500, yet among them 50 per cent are “driving the company in a leadership capacity. The data invalidates any concerns that a sizeable portion of (these) new women directors belong to the promoter family and are being appointed in a non-executive capacity just to comply with the regulations”.

India is one of the first developing countries to have enforced a quota ensuring at least one woman director in the board of companies. Data, as in the second half of December 2018, shows the percentage of women in the 1,789 NSE listed companies have reached 15.94 per cent. The figure remains way behind European and the US markets.

Women make up the largest new cohort entering leadership positions in corporate India the corner rooms. So, the lack of a robust risk awareness among them makes the job of making Indian companies more aware of on the issue, daunting.

Carissa Hickling, Technology Global Consultant at Siemens Technology, India, said, “The low level of awareness about liability insurance was a disappointment. For me, it is such a given that one evaluates the risks and this must be included.”

Since the NCR is among the fastest developing place in the country, an aversion among its new leaders to address risks is a cause for concern, especially as Indian companies are rapidly sailing into areas where reputation risks and cyber threats are multiplying. For instance the study notes, “71 interviewees (about half of those in the study) were not sure whether they are fully aware of reputational risks and the extent to which it could damage their business.”

First Published: Sun, December 23 2018. 21:56 IST
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