Chief Executive Officer – South Pacific Stock Exchange
Director – Pacific Corporate Governance Institute
Member – Capital Markets Development Taskforce
Krishika Narayan is the CEO of the South Pacific Stock Exchange, which has introduced progressive new corporate governance reporting, mandating companies to report in their corporate governance statement in the Annual Report, on what steps they are taking to promote gender diversity. Krishika kindly agreed to share her some of her experience as a women board member in the Pacific.
Why do you think it’s important to have women represented on boards in the Pacific?
It is a well known fact that women are significantly underrepresented on boards in Fiji and the Pacific. Only 20 out of the 106 board directors on the South Pacific Stock Exchange (SPX) listed entities are females and although on an overall basis in recent years, the percentage of female representation on SPX listed entities boards has increased from 12% to 19%, there is still a lot to achieve.
Women board representation in the Pacific is as important as it is globally. The business case for having women represented on boards has been confirmed through multiple research and studies conducted on this topic where generally it has been noted that companies with gender diverse boards produce better results and higher returns on equity. In the Pacific particularly, it is also important to break cultural barriers and traditional perception of women’s main role being restricted to homemakers and caregivers. Pacific women of today have the ability to share equal responsibility in their households as income generators; hence these women should also be given an equal opportunity to attain senior managerial and board positions in the workplace.
Did you face any hurdles getting a board appointment?
I did not face any hurdles in getting board appointments by virtue of being in a senior leadership role. However, I believe that if I was not in a leadership role, getting recognition for my skill sets for board directorships would have been difficult.
What do you foresee the hurdles to be in the future?
There is undoubtedly a lot of awareness being conducted in Fiji in terms of gender diversity and the need for equal opportunities. Research to display the business case for women representation, targeted trainings, seminars, and corporate policies on diversity are some of the many tools being utilised to change the traditional stereotypes about women’s role in Pacific Island countries.
However, while this methodology is increasingly generating interest in corporates to push women into senior executive roles and board positions, the willingness from women may generally still be lacking. Many times, women don’t put their hand up because (i) they lack confidence in taking leadership roles and/or (ii) they prioritise family responsibilities such as child care over progression in their career paths. Due to this setback, many females are undermined in their careers as their skill sets go unnoticed and talents are left unrecognised. As a result, the fundamental issue remains unresolved.
What do you think needs to be done to ensure there are more women on boards in the future?
Firstly, I believe there is a need to continue with the awareness work that is being currently conducted in Fiji and the Pacific on women in leadership roles. For example, the establishment of directors’ institutes provides a great platform and an equal opportunity to women to enhance their skill sets and broaden their knowledge to take up board positions.
Secondly, there is a need to do a lot more work than just preparing women for leadership roles. Women need stronger support systems from their partners, families, friends, colleagues and most importantly from their employers such as child care facilities including provisions for breast feeding, flexible working environment and general cultural acceptance for equal work opportunities.
What advice would you give to women wanting board positions?
Raise your hand for leadership roles and board positions! It is only you who can help yourself progress in your career.
Have a can-do attitude. It is possible and manageable to take up a promotion in your role at work and simultaneously take care of your new born child.
Do your part by educating your children and families about the importance of your career progression and the support you will need in doing so. A simple thing such as your husband helping in house chores will leave a lasting impression on your child’s mind that house chores can be a shared responsibility rather than a woman’s main job!
Accept that it is fine to put your career before your responsibilities as a homemaker and caregiver. Don’t give up purely on your guilt of having to leave your child on someone else’s responsibility while you attend to work needs.