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Women Power in Indian Banking- Is The Sheen Waning off?

Year 2018 first half is turning out to be a watershed moment not only for Indian Banking (fraud, NPA), but also for women power in Indian banking. Rise of women leadership in Indian banking is legendary and is a matter of pride in otherwise highly gender biased corporate world globally. But a string of events puts a spanner in this great story!

  1. February: Subhalakshmi Panse, ex CMD Allahabad Bank name disappears from the Banks Board Bureau (BBB) member list. While that may have been just a part of reshuffle (as the Chairman and a few other members were also replaced) but questions are being asked as she has also been named by the whistleblower (Dinesh Dubey, PNB Fraud case) for not having acted on the objections he had raised when she was still the chairman
  2. March, Archana Bhargava, ex-Chairman & MD of United Bank booked by CBI in disproportionate asset case. CBI has alleged that she had amassed illegal assets worth crores
  3. April, Chanda Kochhar, CEO ICICI Bank faces heat on a whistleblower claim on a potential conflict of interest. The value under question is the 3,250 cr INR that was loaned by ICICI to Videocon group which is now declared as NPA. CBI has registered a PE against her husband Deepak Kochhar.
  4. April, Shikha Sharma, CEO Axis Bank is denied a full 4th 3-year term and simply given an honorable exit with her 4th term to last only till December 2018 (June 2018- Dec 2018). The board had to act after RBI raised a stink on the banks performance and deteriorating asset quality.
  5. May, Usha Ananthasubramanian, CEO Allahabad Bank stripped off all her power by the board after being pushed to act by Ministry of Finance. This is after she was named in the CBI’s chargesheet in PNB fraud case

The question though arises on why we should even talk about this considering that many banking leaders from the opposite gender have also been dragged into multiple controversies. The list includes 2 Executive Directors of PNB, an ex CIO of Axis Bank to name a few. Two reasons we still thought of writing on this very topic are:

  1. Corruption looks to be gender neutral! Relationship between ethics and gender may need a restudy!
  2. In a gender biased corporate world, such women leaders are looked with both awe and inspiration for many women executives who faces struggle to balance life (as women are also mothers with a lot more expectation at home front in a still male dominated society). Incidents like this aren’t exactly great motivators!

Question that we raised at the start is whether the women leadership is losing its sheen? We don’t believe so! Yes, there have been incidents but then there are many great stories of unblemished women leadership which should stand testimony to the rising success of women power.

  1. Sudha Balakrishnan, NSDL executive, appointed as the first CFO of RBI with ED rank (May 2018)
  2. Arundhati Bhattachrya, ex-Chairman of largest bank in India (SBI)
  3. Vijayalaxmi R Iyer , former CMD of BOI and former member (Finance & Investment) IRDAI
  4. Anshula Kant, DMD & CFO of SBI

To conclude, we must say that there has been a slight setback but a few of the allegations are yet to be proven and there are many great women leaders. The more watershed (with positive connotation!) moment for Indian banking sector will be when such women leadership at the top also translates into greater participation of women across the layers of banking sector, bringing in the much-needed gender equality in the corporate world of banking.

This gender equality may not only usher in more positive changes in the society but may also mean better business. In the words of a report of Morgan Stanley ‘that more women are working and leading in the workplace is simply good business, especially for investors who not only care about the ethics, but also want returns.’ The same report showcases a wonderful statistic on how higher gender diversity has yielded higher equity returns for the organization.

So how does India stack against the global peers in terms of gender diversity in banking sector?

As per RBI data (March 2017),

  1. 23% of Total employee base in scheduled commercial banks is Women
  2. Foreign banks with 31% ranks highest
  3. Nationalized banks with 25% is best among the larger 3 categories of banks
  4. SBI does it well when it comes to women in officer category. At 30% it is just a notch below Foreign banks but with their huge volume, SBI makes a difference.
  5. If one has to benchmark this against the best of the global banking majors, then consider the fact that Bank of America has ‘Fifty-two percent of Bank of America’s global workforce is women, including 38 percent of the executive team’ and was named the Worlds Best Bank by Euromoney in 2016 in diversity.















https://dbie.rbi.org.in/DBIE/dbie.rbi?site=publications#!9 (Table 1.29)

Various images publicly available to make the featured image

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