More women leaders vital to boost India’s economy

Date: Tuesday, March 9, 2021

[Press release]

On International Women's Day this year (March 8), Ashish Chauhan (MD and CEO of BSE), centre, pose for a photo as he rang the bell to open the morning trading session and signal his commitment to promote business practices that give women greater equality and leadership in listed companies. In the photo, he is joined by members of BSE. Photo: Courtesy of BSE

New Delhi, India - Prioritizing women’s opportunities and leadership roles in the workplace must be given top priority to accelerate growth in India post-pandemic.

This was the call made by business executives, policymakers and UN gender equality leaders during a virtual “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” ceremony held on the occasion of International Women’s Day this year. Their urgent call underscores concern that gender equality has been set back by the coronavirus crisis, and needs increased focus if half of the country’s population are not to fall behind.

Ashish Chauhan, MD and CEO of BSE, rang the bell to open the morning trading session and signal his commitment to promote business practices that give women greater equality and leadership in listed companies. “Indian companies need to accept and promote women in leadership positions as business-as-usual. It is crucial for us as a society and economy to optimally utilize our resources.”

The webinar participants included Deepak Premnarayen, Chairperson, BSAC, UN Women Office for India, who gave welcome remarks.

Delivering the keynote address, Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, emphasized the private sector’s leading role in complementing government efforts to improve women’s prospects. “Steps like supporting diversity in the workplace by hiring women, paying them the same wages as men for similar jobs, safe transportation and commitment to zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the office, having creches, day care facilities at the workplace are simple yet effective ways to mainstream more women in the economy and also to retain good talent.”

H.E. Ugo Astuto, Ambassador of the European Union to India, highlighted the business advantages to be gained from working with gender diversity, and having more women appointed in the top corporate positions. “Women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table, and make crucial contributions to decisions, policies and laws that will benefit us all.”

He underscored WeEmpowerAsia’s strong contribution to the EU’s support on women economic empowerment in connection to its current priorities: “85% of all new actions throughout external relations will contribute to gender equality and women's empowerment by 2025.”

The high-level virtual meeting titled “When Women Lead: Celebrating Women Leaders in Business” was held aligned to the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on women’s leadership. The event was organized by BSE, MSCI India and WeEmpowerAsia, the UN Women programme, with the European Union as partner and donor, that is helping companies to carry out the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

India has a total of 203 WEPs signatories as of March 9; with nearly a hundred other potential signatories in the list. Interest from the corporate sector to sign and carry out the WEPs has grown significantly since April 2019, a month after the WeEmpowerAsia programme had been launched.

During the virtual event, WeEmpowerAsia held a panel discussion on women’s leadership, moderated by Nishtha Satyam, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women Office for India. Three leading women panelists explained the importance of mentoring and nurturing women leaders, building their confidence to progress in their careers and to disrupt the discriminatory practices, norms, policies, and structures that constrain women's participation in economic life. They were Sangita Reddy, JMD, Apollo Hospitals; Vibha Padalkar, MD and CEO, HDFC Life; and Harsha Bangari, Deputy MD, Export Import Bank of India.

Ruta Pithwa, Executive Director, MSCI, Hemalata Mahalingam, Regional Industry Manager, IFC, and Shabnam Siddiqui, Executive Director, GCN India, delivered special remarks.

Susan Ferguson, Country Representative, UN Women Office for India, closed the event by describing efforts to realize women’s rights and opportunities as “a shared responsibility.”

“Our bell ringing event today demonstrates the commitment of the private sector as partners for empowering women and pushing forward change that is bold, innovative and sustainable.”

UN Women is working alongside the UN Global Compact, Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Initiative, International Finance Corporation: IFC, World Federation of Exchanges and Women in ETFs (the “Global Partners”) for the 7th consecutive year to organise the “Ring the Bell for Gender Equality” initiative.

For media enquiries, please contact:

UN Women India

BSE