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board room: Woman in the board room – Is it mission accomplished? not yet

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There is so much said about the need to have women in the board room, so much research. Countless men and women have become believers in it purely because the intellectuals, the academics and safe keepers of the corporate conscience are saying so. Is it really so? Is having a woman in the board room the solution to the panacea of gender inequality?

What I have realized is that having diversity is not the same as being equitable in providing equal opportunity. You cannot forget that lack of diversity exists because there is human discretion at play and human biases influence behaviour. And introducing one woman into a group of otherwise seven men does not change the biases – it just changes how those biases go to work. How those biases can engage in the age-old game of power play and establishing supremacy.

I will share three instances. A board where the Chairman changed and looked at the board with 2 independent directors brought in by his predecessor. The first step, bring in your own person as an independent director. Next step, pick on the woman independent director brought in earlier, try to sabotage re-appointment. When that failed, bad mouthing within the organization. Add to it, using ill-found basis to harass her in her other professional engagements, accompanied by sweet suggestions of leaving this board ‘because it is not worth it’.

Next example, a board where a woman independent director is the chairperson. Her male counterparts include people with many more years of experience and people representing very deep pockets. A meeting includes several assertions by the experienced men on how they have handled issues of a much greater magnitude and how they have all the answers. Email correspondence includes an uncanny chain of them endorsing each other’s views and ignoring the woman’s views.

The third is from a conversation between heads of ‘forward leaning’ organizations, on adding gender diversity to their boards. Comments include ‘the woman has to be extremely meritorious for us to justify adding her to the board’, ‘she really needs to bring a specific skill set that we otherwise will not find in a male candidate’ and ‘we will add one first and then see how she performs over a year before advocating this step to other boards’. The need for a woman to prove herself worthy does not require that she be good at her work. It requires that she be better than the male counterparts. And when she has proven herself to be worthy enough for a seat at the table, she still needs to remember her ‘place’.

A few months back, I read a very interesting concept that talks about the three layers of progress for women on boards – first is the Breaking In part where you start to get women onto boards. Next is the Critical Mass phase where you try to get more than one woman on each board. And then, there is the stage of Influence where women get into leadership positions and where real power resides. Leadership positions include not only having women as chairs and lead independent directors (where such a role exists), but also as chairs of key board committees like the audit and remuneration committees, which are considered the power committees. There apparently exists an unwritten practice that the women should chair the stakeholder’s relationship committee or the sustainability committee or similar.

India and most of the world are still at the phase one, trying to bring women into boards. Unfortunately, we set the bar so low by requiring just one woman on a board – sending the signal that bringing that one woman would be enough. What started as “let us make a beginning”, has quickly become the end goal. A similar “target” that baffles me is how gender balance is defined as having women form 30% of a group. I joke about it and say maybe it is because women are so much better than men that you need just 3 women to balance out 7 men. But the fact is that women form roughly half of the talent out there. It is time to raise our sights and set targets that are truly representative. True gender diversity and a state of true equitability require that women move beyond the peripheries to yield real influence on the culture, the actions and the decisions. The concept of having women in leadership positions is a powerful one and while it is important to celebrate the few women who make it, it is even more important to remember that this is just a beginning, not the end.

The writer is a Private Equity Investor, Board Member and Founder of WinPE.

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Book Review: Leading By Example

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Diamonds Are Forever, So are Morals

Govind Dholakia

As told to Arun Tiwari and Kamlesh Yagnik 

Penguin Enterprise 

INR 699

One would say that diamonds and morals do not go together, given the countless songs and films on the subject, but this autobiography of the world’s leading diamond tycoon proves that they do. Picking up on the title of one of the more spectacular James Bond books, Govind Dholakia, has embarked on the story of how he reached the heights of the diamond business after his birth into a humble agricultural family in a small village in Gujarat. Without any special learning or education, with dreams and determination in his heart, he made his way to Surat, the nearest big city armed only with his faith in Shri Krishna. 

Starting as a diamond polisher, he honed his trade and experience and step by step began to climb up the ladder of success. Eventually, he founded Shree Ram Krishna Exports (SRK) in 1970, to date the world’s largest diamond crafting and exports company and was eventually successful in shifting the headquarters of the diamond business from Belgium to India. Later, on the wings of his success, he established the SRK Knowledge Foundation (SRKKF), which extended the SRK ethics philosophy to corporate social responsibility.

Like all rags to riches stories, the path to success was not smooth. He was betrayed, he lost friends and sickness intervened in his family. However, there were mystic moments that added new meaning – like his wife’s vision in the Meenakshi Temple that led to the birth of his daughter. Dholakia actually went to a sage to ask whether he should become a sadhu but was advised to start a family – which resulted in his peeping Tom antics to see his future wife’s face since she came from an even more traditional family and intermingling was not allowed before marriage.

 Every detail of his life is described and told in the Katha tradition to engineer-scientist Arun Tiwari, one of APJ Kalam’s students and educationalist Kamlesh Yagnik, in a simple straightforward narrative, that sometimes has a tongue in cheek twist. The story flows from incident to incident occasionally throwing up hints that are not always explained – like a mysterious meal in Russia that reminded Dholakia of another incident in Amsterdam without the necessary connection being made. Diamonds are Forever could also do with some meticulous editing to match the meticulous storytelling. 

 

In a world of millennials, there is a new emphasis on the values that matter, a newfound focus on the self, the body and the home as a source of truth and comfort in a fast-changing world. Dholakia has deliberately chosen to address himself to the world’s youth through his approach and the message is driven home from the first page, mainly by example but also by expanding on mantras and spiritual learnings. The author is clear that he wants people to realise that ethics go hand in hand with success and in the end bring satisfaction to those who follow that path. The text is inspired by works like Law of Success by Napoleon Hill, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam, taking their basic core and uniting them into one seminal book. 

Dholakia’s work has the endorsement of no less than Narendra Modi, his fellow Gujarati, who pronounces the work a “source of inspiration” for generations to come and wishes it every possible success. 

The autobiography treads a fine balance between Dholakia’s spiritual self and his work karma and will certainly intrigue some young get rich quick entrepreneurs to flip through it and perhaps pick up on the message. 



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Monarch donates operational vehicle, accommodation to Osun NSCDC

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Commandant Emmanuel Ocheja, test-driving the operational vehicle donated by the Orangun of Ika, Ejigbo, Oba Sakariyau Oladimeji Owolabi, on May 20, 2022.

As part of his own contribution to combating insecurity in Osun state, His Royal Majesty Oba Sakariyau Oladimeji Owolabi, the Orangun of Ika, Ejigbo, Osun state has donated one operational vehicle, and accommodation to the Nigeria Security and Corps (NSCDC), Osun state command on 20th May, 2022.

While presenting the vehicle to the state Commandant, Commandant Emmanuel Ocheja, the Orangun of Ika, Ejigbo, said the gesture is part of his corporate social responsibility to security architecture, explaining that security is a collective responsibility.

According to a statement by Osun NSCDC PRO, ASC II Atanda Olabisi, the monarch said, everyone must collaborate with security agencies to put an end to criminalities in the country.

HRM Oba Sakariyau Oladimeji said further that it is only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility that development can take place. Hence, the monarch stressed the need to further partner with security personnel in the country.

Speaking during the handing over of the vehicle and the apartment, Commandant Emmanuel Ocheja of the NSCDC, Osun State Command commended the Kabiyesi for the gesture.

He said the gesture is timely as insecurity is on the high side in the country, noting that fight against insecurity should not be left for the government alone.

He advised that everyone is expected to support security agencies in order to make the country safe for all.

While assuring the king of judicious use of the vehicle and apartment, Commandant Ocheja said the gesture would be fully utilized for the purpose for which they were donated.

He also called on well-meaning Nigerians to rise up to the challenges facing security agencies in the country.

CC Ocheja also pledged the unflinching commitment of the command towards combating crimes in the state.

He also use the occasion to assure all residents of Osun State of adequate security before, during and after the forthcoming gubernatorial election.





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OPINION – Quantitative and Qualitative Measurements of CSR: Figures and Descriptions

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Carlos Noronha

Vice President, Executive Council

Macau Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility in Greater China (MICSRGC)


In March 2022, the Second Standing Committee of the Macau Legislative Assembly reported that some legislators were concerned about how CSR activity of the gaming operators under the new gaming law can be ‘quantified’ and the President of the Committee expressed that it is very difficult to do. Let us take a look at this matter of measuring good deeds (CSR).

It can be generally mentioned that there are quantitative (by numbers, figures or monetary amounts) measurements as well as qualitative measurements of how companies contribute to society in the form of CSR.

What has been questioned by the legislators, and probably the public, is largely in terms of monetary contributions given by gaming operators to society. Everyone is certainly reminded of the 35% special gaming tax on operators’ gross income plus another 4-5% for social, infrastructure and other contributions. Most likely, people are seeking to find out whether, under the new gaming law, this 4-5% contribution will be increased. It is natural that the public will focus on this so called “CSR contribution”, but when the money goes to the coffer and whether it is spent in an effective and efficient way, is entirely another issue.

Back to the main issue of how to measure CSR. This is a difficult question but there are already what we called “measurements of social performance/contributions” (MSP/C) worldwide. It is not difficult for one to have access to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and the so-called sustainable shares versus the “sin stocks”. If a business is listed on a particular stock market, it must fulfill certain ESG (environmental, social and governance) requirements and disclosures. For example, members of MICSRGC have already conducted research using the “Social Contribution Value per Share” (SCVPS), which is a numerical indicator of how much an enterprise is contributing towards the main stakeholders, such as the investors, government, customers, and suppliers; and taking into account the negative impacts business operations may have on the environment. Our research has also indicated that this kind of quantitative measurement can be informative to investors, giving them good indicators and criteria for investing in sustainable businesses. At present, the SCVPS is only disclosed by companies listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. We believe that it is applicable to companies listed on other stock markets.

What about the qualitative side of CSR measurements? I would like to share an experience of our institute, MICSRGC, being involved in an upcoming public award for responsible entrepreneurship. The “Deignan Award for Responsible Entreprenuership” is a newly set up form of recognition for businesses in Macau and Hong Kong (especially small-and-medium-sized enterprises) which have attained the award criteria and have performed in an outstanding way in terms of CSR, sustainability, ESGs, and business ethics. The event is co-organized by the Wofoo Foundation Limited in Hong Kong, the Macau Ricci Institute, and a number of key organizations including the University of Saint Joseph, the Hong Kong International Institute of Educational Leadership as well as the Center for Catholic Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

In shaping the award criteria, MICSRGC assisted in operationalizing the five core or foundational values of Alfred Deignan, S.J., namely “Respecting Human Dignity”, “Respecting Fairness”, “Respecting the Environment”, “Respecting Business Ethics”, “Respective the Disadvantaged”, plus “enhancing value” which looks into social innovativeness and crisis management. The award is open for applications and the judging panel includes respected names in the social, business and philanthropy areas in Macau and Hong Kong. Every foundational value of the award has to be substantiated by evidence – qualitative as well as quantitative – thus the inspiration behind this article. It is worth looking forward to seeing how the nominees contribute toward CSR and related issues like sustainability, ESG and so on.

In drafting the award criteria, MICSRGC (with the unconditional help of our academic members and volunteers) has referred to various awards on CSR, business ethics, and business excellence in other countries and regions. CSR is not dependent on the monetary amount any large corporation has spent on public relations or marketing. The message is simple and clear: Good deeds are difficult to measure, but if we measure them, we need to be vigilant and not be swayed by extravagant forms and impressive titles.



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