Reservations? Or not?

One question I keep getting asked more often than not is whether I am in favour of reservations for women on boards? It is a difficult question to respond to, because if I answer in the affirmative it seems as if I am pushing the feminist agenda at the cost of meritocracy, and if the answer is a no, then I am obviously ignoring the harsh reality of the invisibility cloak that lies over so many women who get passed over in favour of their male colleagues insofar as such club-like cliques are concerned!

So I end up giving a very wishy-washy answer accompanied by my patented ‘caught in the headlights’ Bambi look which while being cute certainly does not behove my image as an iron lady!

Perforce I have decided to take the bull by the horns and say unequivocally that till we correct the balance of power and till there are enough women in and outside boards, I am completely, utterly and totally in favour of reservations.

The end justifies the means and when the end is clearly such a luminous one that all but the most dim-witted idiot can see it, I see no reason to prevaricate any longer.

When I used to play hockey for my college (some of you may remember that hockey has been our national sport and thus quite popular even in the pre Chak de era) several of us were participating in trials to get into the state hockey team at one stage. And while a friend of mine only tried for the centre forward position which being more glamorous had far more contenders, I chose to try for the goal keeper’s slot which had limited appeal amongst the players. The idea was to play for the state and whatever made that happen was perfectly acceptable to me, but this logic did not resonate with my friend.

I played for Tamil Nadu for two years and she didn’t.

The moment we ensure that there are women represented at the top, automatically conversations around diversity will increase in the very place where they are not happening today – the board room. One woman on the board can have a multiplier effect just by having a feminine point of view at that critical table. More importantly visible role models will emerge to inspire younger women, which is one of the crucial factors that encourages women to keep climbing the slippery slopes of the corporate ladder.

To achieve this objective, if reservations are required temporarily, so be it, I say. “Exitus acta probat” Most definitively!

And by the way it will also go a long way in helping all our dear male colleagues too. Research has it that men become politer, come better dressed, and improve in etiquette and manners when there are women on their boards!