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“We are at a junction where corporate governance transcends mere rule adherence”

Sheila Ujoodha, Chief Executive of the MIoD
Sheila Ujoodha, Chief Executive of the MIoD

In an exclusive interview with BIZweek, Sheila Ujoodha, the Chief Executive of the Mauritius Institute of Directors, boldly asserts that the organization serves as the definitive voice for directors in both the private and public sectors. On the occasion of its 15-year anniversary, the Chief Executive highlights the significant evolution of the concept of good corporate governance, shaped by dynamic changes in the business landscape, emerging risks, and evolving stakeholder expectations. This transformation has given rise to a progressive framework known as “Mindful Governance”, which embraces a holistic and forward-thinking approach to leadership and decision-making. By acknowledging the intricate interdependencies between businesses, stakeholders, society, and the environment, this approach champions a new era of responsible and effective corporate governance, states Sheila Ujoodha.

August 2023 marks an important milestone in the life of the Mauritius Institute of Directors (MIoD). How does it feel to be the Chief Executive at such a significant chapter? 

Three years ago, I took on the role of Chief Executive Officer at the MIoD, and this has been a challenging and rewarding journey. Fuelled by my passion for business and a clear vision for leadership, I was propelled forward with unwavering determination. However, I contemplated the path to becoming a more adept director, learning from industry best practices and standards, connecting with like-minded directors who shared my values, and contributing to the development and growth of Mauritius. The compelling necessity to acquire knowledge and expertise is more and more relevant in our ever-evolving world. This is where the Mauritius Institute of Directors came into play. The MIoD provides a platform where we could learn from experts, access world-class training and certification programs, participate in workshops and networking events, engage in advocacy forums, and contribute to research initiatives.

I am thus truly honoured and thrilled to be here, as the CEO, for the 15th anniversary of the MIoD. Over the last three years, I have had the privilege of witnessing the Institute evolve and grow, overcoming numerous challenges along the way. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside a dedicated team, passionate members, and supportive founders and patrons, who have all played a pivotal role in our progress. I am not only happy, but also proud of what we have achieved.

Navigating an unknown future you cannot see, with risks you barely know, makes serving on a board more challenging than at any previous time. New uncertainties can make it more difficult for directors to determine how to serve the best interests of their organization, especially when it comes to balancing short term and long-term strategies. Hence, at the MIoD, we will continue to be the driving force in promoting good corporate governance in Mauritius and reinforce our commitment to upholding the highest standards of governance in business operations, paving our way towards being a trusted partner for businesses and directors alike.

The 15-year activities started about two weeks ago with a workshop on building an inclusive board and achieving the 25% target. Could you outline the concept of diversity and the MIoD’s advocacy on this matter?

The MIoD wholeheartedly welcomes the decision to mandate a minimum of 25% women on the boards of listed companies in Mauritius. We are deeply committed to supporting and partnering with these companies as they pave their way towards achieving this target.

At the MIoD, we have long championed the cause of diversity and inclusion, and gender diversity at C-suite level and in boardrooms is one area of focus amongst others. Our steadfast conviction underscores that boards rich in diversity are aptly positioned to confront present and future obstacles, cultivate innovation, and achieve sustainable performance. In pursuit of these principles, we have launched endeavours like the Women Directors’ Forum and the ‘Path to Boardroom’ program, both of which actively endorse and equip women for board-level roles.

Currently, 35% of our 1607 members are women. Through our initiatives, 173 women are registered at the institute with board-level experience, and we are actively supporting 280 female representatives on their journey to board positions. We will thus continue to advocate for an inclusive culture within the boardroom itself, and integrate inclusive thinking and behaviours into all the ways that the board operates.

How would you rate Mauritius in terms of the gender gap, and how can the MIoD assist companies in bridging this gap?

Achieving gender balance on boards is not only a short-term goal, but a long-term commitment. Our ‘Path to Boardroom’ endeavour has highlighted practical steps that companies in Mauritius can take to facilitate this transition while ensuring meaningful change. It is important to note that Mauritius has progressed from the 110th place in the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum in 2021, to the 98th place in 2023. This positive trend reflects the concerted efforts of the MIoD and all stakeholders involved.

While this is a significant step forward, it’s important to acknowledge that we need to do more and continue this progressive momentum. We are unwavering in our dedication to drive diversity and inclusion in the realm of corporate governance and beyond. By uniting our efforts, we can ensure that our boards authentically mirror the rich diversity within our society. Our comprehensive array of initiatives is designed to foster diversity and cultivate inclusive corporate governance standards. By means of diverse platforms, educational initiatives, and advocacy campaigns, we provide expert guidance, share exemplary approaches, and cultivate a nurturing environment for businesses striving for gender parity. Our determination to nurture diversity remains resolute, and we are fully committed to aiding organizations on their path towards a more just and comprehensive corporate arena that leads to better decision-making and sustainable business practices.

We understand that the MIoD is here, today, due to the support of founders, patrons, and sponsors. It would be interesting to hear about the first steps and the philosophy behind the establishment of the MIoD.

It is important to emphasize that the core purpose of the MIoD is to promote good corporate governance in both the public and private sectors. It serves as a platform and resource hub for business leaders, directors, and executives to enhance their understanding of corporate governance and strengthen their skills and knowledge in this field.

The Mauritius Institute of Directors (MIoD) was established in 2008, in response to the promulgation of the National Code of Corporate Governance (2004), by Pierre Dinan, the first Chairperson of the Institute, and Tim Taylor, the Chairperson of the National Committee on Corporate Governance. This Committee initiated a study aimed at creating an institution that would support and benefit company directors. Our 13 founders generously contributed to this cause, allowing the MIoD to play a pivotal role in the business landscape in Mauritius. Throughout the years, the institute has set up advocacy forums, workshops and events that have enhanced corporate governance in Mauritius.

Today, the MIoD has evolved into a driving force in the promotion of good corporate governance practices in Mauritius, making it a valuable partner for businesses and aspiring directors seeking to uphold the highest standards of governance in their operations. This transformation encompassed the implementation of well-structured development programs for directors, to equip them in staying relevant in their industry. This was achieved through consistent training sessions designed to keep them up to date with latest trends and best practices.

Moreover, the concept of good corporate governance has changed over time, influenced by changes in the business environment, emerging risks, and stakeholder expectations. Conventionally, corporate governance centred round guaranteeing adherence to legal and regulatory mandates. However, there’s a contemporary call for a more vigilant approach that transcends these boundaries.


Recently, the MIoD has been focusing its efforts on four key areas: Technology, ESG, Diversity & Inclusion, and Corporate Governance. Could you provide more insight into this strategy?

Each of these areas plays a crucial role in modern corporate governance practices. The concept of good corporate governance has evolved significantly. Beyond compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, as it used to be traditionally, there is now a strong emphasis on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors. Corporate Governance encompasses how businesses manage the impact on the environment, the relationships with society, the answers to climate change, the support to diversity and inclusion, and internal governance practices.

The approach to corporate governance has evolved into what is referred to as ‘Mindful Governance’. This holistic and forward-thinking approach to leadership and decision-making acknowledges the interconnectedness of businesses with stakeholders, society, and the environment. It prioritizes ethical behaviour, transparency, and long-term sustainability as integral components of corporate strategy. ‘Mindful governance’ recognizes that businesses are not isolated entities, but integral parts of the broader community, and it aims to enhance reputation, stakeholder relationships, and resilience in a complex and dynamic business landscape.

As an island nation facing climate vulnerabilities, we understand the importance of incorporating ESG principles into business strategies. The MIoD has taken the lead in organizing significant events like the ESG Summit and the Climate Change Impacting on Food Security conference. These initiatives are designed to promote sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change, aligning business practices with broader societal and environmental goals.

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, technology is integral to the functioning of organizations. The MIoD recognizes the importance of embracing and harnessing technology to enhance governance practices and has organized various advocacy events, thus raising awareness on how Mauritian businesses must keep pace with technological transformation. This involves addressing the unique challenges and risks associated with the digital transformation of businesses.

Last but not least, diversity and inclusion is an important subject for us. We actively advocate for an inclusive representation on boards, and support initiatives such as the minimum of 25% women directors requirement on boards of listed companies. One of our prominent initiatives, overseen by the Women Director’s Forum, is the ‘Path to Boardroom’ program. This exemplary program, including the Women Leadership Academy, runs in collaboration with Dale Carnegie Mauritius, and the coaching and mentoring program underscores our commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion by empowering women to unlock their utmost capabilities.

What are the main challenges that lie ahead for the MIoD?

As highlighted earlier, we have arrived at a junction where corporate governance transcends mere rule adherence. The imperative now is to wholeheartedly adopt the ethos of ‘mindful governance’, signifying a momentous transformation in corporate stewardship and strategic choices. The crux of the challenge rests in nurturing a profound consciousness of the intricate interplay between a company’s actions and their reverberations across stakeholders, society, and the environment – a paradigm that both directors and organizations must ardently embrace.

The MIoD will continue to champion and enlighten on fundamental governance tenets, fostering ethical behaviour, transparency, and enduring sustainability within corporate strategies. As we encounter emerging risks, we are committed to not only staying relevant, but also addressing and moulding them into avenues for growth and advancement.

The MIoD aspires to play a crucial role in shaping Mauritius’ corporate governance landscape and nurturing business progression. To do so, the MIoD must uphold agility and receptiveness to the ever-changing requisites of businesses, thus elevating boards to unparalleled heights of excellence. We are committed to extending all our endeavours to benefit our stakeholders, encompassing both the private and public sectors.

Furthermore, an engaging conference, namely the 2nd edition of the Annual Corporate Governance Conference, awaits us next week, precisely on the 31st of August, as part of the 15th Anniversary celebrations. It is being hosted with the participation of the Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance, the NCCG, Business Mauritius and MCCI, amongst other key stakeholders. The focal point of this event is “The Future of Corporate Governance.”

Before concluding this interview, could you tell us more about yourself and your experience as a board director?

My professional journey spans 24 years, during which I have gained extensive experience in internal audit, risk management, corporate governance, and process improvement, both locally and internationally. Before joining MIoD, I held the position of Managing Director at SmarTree Consulting Ltd, and served as the Chief Risk & Audit Executive for Rogers and Cim Group. My educational background includes a BSc (Hons) in Accounting, and I am a fellow member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. I am also a Member of the Mauritius Institute of Professional Accountants.

Within MIoD, I wear multiple hats, currently serving as the Chairperson of various forums, including the Audit Committee Forum (ACF), the Directors Forum, the Women Directors Forum, and the Company Secretary Circle. In addition to my executive directorship role at the Mauritius Institute of Directors, I hold independent, non-executive directorships at Alteo Ltd, Innodis Ltd, Standard Bank Mauritius and Vivo Energy Mauritius. I also serve as a non-executive director at SmarTree Consulting Ltd.

Outside the professional realm, I have practiced yoga regularly for the past 17 years, which has contributed to maintaining a strong mind-set and a continued focus on achieving goals. Additionally, I have incorporated activities such as golf and swimming into my routine, adding balance and recreation to my life.

Some final thoughts, or ‘le mot de la fin’ of this interview?

The Mauritius Institute of Directors is the voice of directors for both the private and public sectors. Trust is at the core of everything we do at the MIoD. It is the bedrock of our proficiency, the cornerstone of our dedication to advancing corporate governance, and of our capacity to support the growth and prosperity of businesses in Mauritius.


As we celebrate our 15th anniversary and look ahead to the future, we are more determined than ever to uphold this trust and be the ‘corporate governance partner’ that the business community can rely on. Our dedication lies in advocating for the finest corporate governance methodologies, fostering the professional advancement of our members, and cultivating an environment conducive to the growth and success of the business community. Your confidence in our proficiency and unwavering commitment will empower us to persist in our collaborative efforts. Together, we will fortify the economic foundation and propagate a culture of robust and principled governance within our country.


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