“It takes a woman to think that it might be useful to have the Finance Minister come to the BSE Hall,” quipped a half-joking Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the second edition of the Women Directors Conclave 2022 held at the International Convention Hall of the landmark location in Mumbai on Friday.
Thanking ‘Mentor My Board’, a platform that trains Directors for leadership at companies, for organising the event and inviting her, she confessed that it was the first time ever she had set foot inside the BSE Hall. “A woman may be a finance minister, but she is not found worthy to come into the BSE till another woman has something to do with her,” she said, quickly adding that she was not taking a dig at the BSE.
The Bombay Stock Exchange’s Rotunda building, one of the most iconic structures in Mumbai, houses the International Convention Hall (ICH) which used to be the trading floor of the exchange almost two decades back, before trading became fully electronic. At the entrance sits the statue of the Bull, almost synonymous with the stock exchange.
Calling the BSE an iconic institution which every Indian needs to be proud of, she highlighted that it has weathered very many storms. “I eagerly wish that the BSE becomes a lot more vibrant and a lot more representative of modern markets, it has all the strengths, a huge history to be proud of and I’m sure it can also be very robust. I look forward to the day when (BSE Chairman and former RBI Deputy Governor SS Mundra) Mr Mundra will say, “You threw a challenge at me, come see what it is today.”
At her candid best in the company of other women, as she herself quipped, she opened up like rarely ever before and belted out one remark after the other to an applauding and guffawing audience of mostly women.
Talking about the low representation of women on the boards on corporate India, she summarised that the hesitation of women themselves – while understandable given the patronisation and condescension they face at every level – stops them from progressing. “That hesitation is what is stopping women from undergoing these trainings, which are so required even for men, not just women. Many of these independent directors who are men, I know what …..,” she left the sentence unfinished as she rolled her eyes with a cheeky smile and a shrug of hands. But she quickly clarified to a laughing crowd that it was not the official speech of the Finance Minister. “The moment you are in the company of other women, you open up!”
But she also gave the women a word of advice to cross the threshold they have imposed on themselves. “That little crossing of the threshold which we have set for ourselves is very important. We can have icons, but the bold step is yours and you need to take it. Once you take it, you’ll know ‘Probably, we have exaggerated to ourselves that it is difficult for women to function among men. It’s not as bad as we think’.”
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