Women in board rooms

Reema Sharma

The debate on competency versus gender has always been a very interesting one. A woman at the top post of a company makes news twice, once for the top post and other for the woman-in-top-post.

Marissa Mayer is one such name. The 37-year old has created a lot of buzz after tech giant Yahoo has named her as its new President and CEO.

But actually Mayer has made news thrice. She is the pregnant woman CEO of a company. It is very symbolic of the change in working pattern in firms and for that matter the choice of workers the tech industry is hiring.

The Yahoo board has apparently been very clear that the pregnancy wasn’t even a consideration in their decision to hire Mayer. Although it is true that Yahoo does not represent the entire tech world, such a gesture is inspiring.

However, the pattern of hiring is different in India. There is no denying that there might be exceptions but Mayer-like case would be rare here.

Lamenting about the hiring and firing game of Bollywood’s leading ladies, a fellow scribe writes, “…The moment they get married, they have to bitterly bid goodbye to their careers, so what if they are the reigning queens of the industry.” If marriage could be such a threat to one’s career, it is very easy to gauge what it would be to give birth to a baby.

This is also true that the entertainment world works on a different set of rules when employing a female. But it does speak volumes of a mindset that prevails in India.

There are also the young Turks in India, who are reigning in company boardrooms like Mayer. But the striking feature in all of them lies in their family names. Be it Adi Godrej's 31-year-old daughter Nisaba, Shiv Nadar’s daughter Roshni Nadar, or Ajay Piramal’s daughter Nandini Piramal— family businesses have always given them an edge (This absolutely casts no doubt on their capabilities or potential though.)

Marriage or motherhood won’t disturb the career harmony of these women. But the same cannot be said for women who don’t have the family edge. Working women usually don’t think of applying elsewhere if they are expecting. They fear, the employers may not hire them thinking that she might not re-join post her delivery; the woman can have issues with leaves, the place may have its own challenges which otherwise can be dealt with in the present organisation.

Coming back to Mayer- The lady, who has been associated with Google for more than a decade, will have to prove her mettle soon. It would be a tough task for her to steer the wheel of fortune of the struggling internet company when Yahoo prepares to report its Q3 results (Her baby is due around the same time).

Happiness would magnify when both the quarter results and the baby ‘fare well’. But right now, it is surely a happy time for the beautiful top honcho of Yahoo who has two reasons to rejoice and celebrate!

One only wishes that India can also have such stories of Marissa Mayer and the hiring pattern can also boast of talent, irrespective of the fact whether she is married, going to be married, has kids or going to have kids!