Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday rued that women are reluctant to join company boards and she has herself struggled to convince candidates.
The remarks come even as the statutes mandate top 1,000 companies to have at least one independent woman director.
"I have actually made a lot of attempts in my own level as a minister in calling up some people and saying please would you not want to come to a board? We want your experience. We want presence. No, I have not had enough women coming. So, there is a serious issue,” Sitharaman said.
"Get me those kind of women who can be put on the boards. Where are they?" she asked the audience at a post-Budget meet with industry in the financial capital.
She also urged the industry to come up with the right solutions to tackle the problem, assuring all support from the government.
"We should talk, think about it and also keep the end results that we so desire before us. All of us will have to apply our mind," the minister said.
Revenue Secretary Tarun Bajaj chipped in to say that over half of the Central Board of Direct Taxes now constitutes women and termed the experience of working with them as much better, easier, one that leads to many perspectives and a balancing one.
Headhunter-turned-founder of Avaana Capital, Anjali Bansal, said the percentage of women directors has grown to 20 per cent now from 3.5 per cent earlier, courtesy the changes in the Companies Act and recommendations of the Uday Kotak committee on corporate governance.
To a suggestion on mandating hiring of women for companies, Finance Secretary T V Somanathan made his concerns public, drawing from experience in the Ministry of Company Affairs at the time of mandating corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending for some enterprises.
"You (industry) are now seeking government regulation on something which is unregulated. If that is what you want, you should be very clear and that should not become like CSR, where people said why to have a regulation? Why 2 per cent? Why not 1.5? Why not 3 per cent?” he said.
Under the Companies Act, 2013, certain class of profitable entities are required to shell out at least 2 per cent of their three-year annual average net profit towards CSR activities in a particular financial year.
"Would you like a reservation policy for women in the corporate sector? Would you like for a reservation policy for other weaker sections in private sector? You have to think about it very clearly as to what you want before you ask for it.
"Because if you are not clear, you will get something which may not be what you have been asking for. You should be very specific," he added.