Confronted by a new law aimed at addressing the widespread absence of women from India’s boardrooms, the country’s richest businessman decided he knew just the woman for the job — his wife.
Nita Ambani, best known for her skyscraper family mansion, was due to be voted on Wednesday as a director of her husband Mukesh’s giant conglomerate Reliance Industries.
The law, passed last year and with varying deadlines for firms depending on turnover, aims to boost gender diversity at the top by insisting on at least one woman in the boardroom of listed companies.
“My firm has been head-hunting for over a decade and I have not had businesses actually looking to hire women from outside the ranks for board positions,” said Mahalakshmi, the head of the Mumbai-based Professional Consulting.
“Businesses would want someone whom they can influence and ensure conformity in the board,” she added.
India’s treatment of women has been in the international spotlight since late 2012 when the fatal gang-rape of a young student in the capital New Delhi sparked outrage over sexual abuse and gender inequality.
Although the new Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pleasantly surprised activists by putting women in more than a quarter of his cabinet posts, a sharp increase on the last government, analysis of the wider Indian workplace shows there is a long way to go.