Sunday, March 7, 2010

WILL Women's Day Pledge:
Consensus for Voluntary Affirmative Action on "Balanced Leadership"

The energy, intelligence, discourse, talent, and commitment for fast-forward movement was shining amongst the group of over 100 senior women executives who gathered at the "WILL Open Tea House" on March 5, in New Delhi.

We were most privileged to have some of the finest women executives from the best-employer companies in India present at the WILL meeting -- including KPMG, GE India, Citigroup, Genpact, Honeywell, Bharti Enterprises, Walmart, ONGC, Pepsi Foods, Benett and Coleman, Coca Cola, Monsanto, Tata Teleservices, Headstrong, Indian School of Business, and others. The WILL Forum represents over 1,500 women from over 250 companies from across corporate India and multinationals.

The consensus was clear: Corporate India needs to adopt a series of Voluntary Best Practices for bringing about "Balanced Leadership" at all levels of the organization -- and particularly for CEOs, Board Positions, and top-management decision making positions. The 5% women board directors metric has to improve -- and only 10% women as CEOs and top-management has to change, as there is no shortage of women who are qualified, talented, and aspiring to take on the positions for responsibility.

The business case is clear -- as women represent nearly 50% of future markets of customers, investors, and employees
The best-employers case is clear -- as companies want to retain women in their workforce, and overcome the shortage of talent for expanding their businesses
The leadership case is clear -- as women bring differentiating styles of women in leaderhip including collegiality, team-work, consensus-building, innovative and open thinking --needed for the new format of business success
The corporate governance case is clear -- as women bring several unique qualities as independent directors -- including a greater public-spiritedness and societal commitment, they are ready to ask the right questions, seem to be more ethical and unwilling to partake in corruption and fraud, are more candid and transparent, they are more collegial and consensus building on board decisions

The women of WILL Forum arrived at a collective-consensus for recommending the following "Best Practices for Balanced Leadership" for corporate India: 2010, on a voluntary compliance basis:
WILL "50 Best Practices for Women in the Workplace" -- for voluntary acceptance on all public companies listed on BSE
WILL "Women Mentoring Programs" for all women executives -- at least once a year, for bridging the inequity of talent pool
No jobs to be closed until there are at least 25% applications from women candidates for consideration
Each woman executive to mentor another 10 women in the organization -- as per WILL Forum best practices for women in leadership
Pressure from committed global investors like IFC, World Bank, Fortune 500 clients -- to engage with companies that show more women on top-management and boardrooms
Appoint a Chief Diversity Officer to monitor the upward career movement of women in the organization-- reporting directly to the CEO
Create the WILL "Independent Women Directors Roster" of 400 qualified and aspiring women directors -- for consideration of corporate India, to close the lack-of-supply of qualified women for boardooms
The WILL Forum would like to extend its continuing appreciation to all the enlightened executives of corporate India, both men and women --and brings greetings to all best practice stakeholders on International Women's Day: 2010.


Poonam Barua
Founder Convener
Forum for Women in Leadership