On the eve of International Women’s Day, State Street Global Advisors, a firm that manages more than $2.5 trillion in assets, installed a bronze statue of a defiant girl staring down the iconic charging bull on New York's Wall Street.
The statue of the little girl standing with hands on her hips and chin held high in front of the bull is meant to draw attention to the lack of gender diversity on the boards of the asset manager's client companies.
In a statement, State Street Global Advisors CEO Ron O'Hanley said, "Today, we are calling on companies to take concrete steps to increase gender diversity on their boards, and have issued clear guidance to help them begin to take action."
The problem of gender diversity and inequality is systemic and not just confined to any company or country. Back home, we are no better.
In India, although it has been made mandatory for companies to have 30 percent of their boards made up of women, India Inc. has generally been slow to fully comply with it.
In many cases, compliance has been cosmetic in nature and missed the very spirit of true diversity for which the change was mandated. Many promoter-controlled companies have been accused of checking the boxes by filling the board positions with the wives and daughters of promoters.
But not all such female inductees have proved to be dummies. Many have brought immense value to their companies for sure. A shining example is Dipali Goenka, CEO & joint MD of the $3-billion Welspun Group. Under her stewardship, Welspun India's revenue and earnings have gone up several fold. In FY16, the company recorded a net profit of approximately $110 million on revenues of $950 million.
However, it's not to say we have not made any progress. Since 2010, the number of women on boards has doubled for companies in India.
As the example of Dipali shows, it pays to have women in leadership positions in particular, and in the workforce generally. According to a study, if women equal men in the workforce, India can contribute $700 to the world GDP by 2025.
A recent study by Credit Suisse Research Institute, CS Gender 3000 Report for 2016, has reaffirmed its earlier report of 2014 which said that companies with higher participation of women in decision-making roles continue to generate higher market returns and superior profits.
Hopefully, the message sought to be conveyed through the little girl's statue will be heard loud and clear in the boardrooms across the world.