Only 11 per cent of Indian companies have women as CEOs, but this is several times higher than Fortune 500 companies, according to an EMA Partners study

EMA Partners International conducted a study of the leadership profile of 240 large corporations in India, a mix of both local as well as multinational corporations across various sectors, and discovered that only 11 per cent of the companies studied had women CEOs. However, this compared quite well with the Fortune 500 list that EMA Partners also studied, where women CEOs accounted for just 3% of the total consideration set.

The organisations in India were chosen on the basis of revenues, market cap and impact. Companies were also chosen to represent a broad cross-section of the industry and consisted of entities both in the public and private sector.

On further analysis, it was found that in India, more than half the women CEOs hail from the banking and financial services sector, which accounted for 54%. Followed by the media and life sciences sector contributing around 11% each. FMCG and Consulting were around 8% each, while manufacturing and IT / ITES reported around 4% each. Interestingly, in the Fortune 500 list, FMCG / Consumer durables accounted for a 48% share of the women CEOs while financial services just accounted for 7%, in stark contrast to the Indian situation. Technology and manufacturing also reported a higher share at 13%.

Compared to the Fortune 500 numbers, the Indian results certainly look a lot better.  However, it is clear that outside financial services, other industries have a long way to catch up. The banking and financial services industry has seen the presence of more women on top than any other industry. In fact, the women CEOs here amongst the private sector and foreign banks would almost outnumber men in this sector. A key source of female talent has been women who used to work for ICICI, and have branched out to other institutions as well in recent times.

The IT / ITES industry has also seen a high drop-out rate due to the fact that the business at the operating level involves a fair amount of travel to on-site locations and also the pressure of working through multiple time zones. Manufacturing companies, as has always been the case, have traditionally attracted fewer women over the years considering the nature of the business and the locations they operate.

The other interesting facet, which stands out starkly, is the presence of several women from business promoter families. If you take them out of the equation, the number of professional women CEOs drops drastically. In fact, women promoter family CEOs constitute 35% of the total women CEOs.
Although there seems to be more gender balance as we go down the hierarchy, scaling the ladder continues to be a big challenge for women across most industries.

Other industries can certainly take a cue from the financial services sector in India, especially large players like ICICI Group, which have effectively nurtured and developed several women leaders over the years.