Women take to business schools in record numbers

Vinay Kamath Chennai | Updated on August 18, 2020

Gender equity in Indian B-Schools is slowly but surely rising. IIM Kozhikode’s batch of 2020-22 has women constituting 52 per cent of the cohort of 492 students. At IIM-Bangalore, the batch of 2019-21 has 37.4 per cent of women, an all-time high for the B-school.

The overall percentage of women in the top six IIMs for the class of ’21 tots up to 33.5 per cent, up from 26 per cent the previous year.

Debashis Chatterjee, Director, says that IIM-K has been at the forefront of achieving gender diversity, and in 2013-15 the MBA batch broke the glass ceiling by inducting a record 54.29 per cent women.

Second-year IIM-B student Mehak Gupta says: “B-schools have realised that for a wholesome classroom experience, it is essential to have equal representation of opinion and diversity in thought.”

However, as her classmate Tanvi Sawant says: “More women are seen holding positions of power and influence and are involved in decision-making. This leads to more women joining B-schools as it acts as a catalyst in their journey of becoming good managers and leaders.”

Corporate sector’s push

The corporate sector’s push is certainly a catalyst for the rising cohort of women joining B-Schools. Namrata Rajagopal, who passed out of ISB this year, says: “Doing an MBA is a significant investment of money and time. Women will only choose to investif they are reasonably assured of landing great jobs. Hence, the corporate sector’s push for equal pay and greater diversity definitely plays a role.”

ISB itself has seen its diversity ratio scale up over the last many years, and is now at a 40 per cent female representation, up from last year’s 38 per cent, points out Dibyendu Bose, the Director of Admissions & Financial Aid at ISB.

But it is IIM-K that has really been leading the push. In the US, Wharton has been feted for having 47 per cent women in its MBA class of 2021, but IIM-K crossed the 50 per cent-mark long before.

Its director Debashis Chatterjee explains that in 2012 IIM-K had adopted a policy of greater gender and other forms of diversity in the IIMs. Prior to 2012, the average intake of women in the flagship PGP programme was 8 to 10 per cent.

He says a high gender diversity was achieved through “introduction of consistency in academic performance, including class 10 and 12 results, in the overall assessment for admissions. Girls tended to fare as well as or better than boys”.

Analysing the greater influx of women to B-schools in the past few years, Prof Ashis Mishra, Chairperson, Admissions, IIM Bangalore, says that B-schools run career-oriented programmes. “Women have been increasingly demonstrating that they bring strengths to leadership and managerial roles that men do not multitasking, empathy, and the ability to carry people along are a few of them. It is no longer a case of making way for women on grounds of gender alone,” he explains.

Also, as he says, B-schools draw their cohorts substantially from engineering colleges. More women are entering these engineering programmes, across all kinds of disciplines.

The next big leveller

Kamal Karanth, co-founder, Xpheno, a specialist staffing firm, says initiatives from marquee brands such as Amazon, IBM, Goldman Sachs, BOSCH, Hitachi Systems, DBS Bank and HGS drive volumes in campus-hiring processes. “The sheer quality of women skillsets in some of the institutions drives a preference for hiring more even if an active D&I agenda does not exist with certain employers,” he says.

Karanth points out that while the falling female labour force participation rate is a concern, the healthy mix of skills that the organised women workforce has created is encouraging. “Traditionally banking, teaching, advertising, hospitality, airline, and health services were the go-to industries for women professionals. This pattern was broken by engineering qualification as the first and largest leveler that brought more women into otherwise male-dominant industries. The MBA is now looked at as the next big leveler for women's talent to enter into an even wider terrain,” he says.

Chatterjee of IIMK says that in the 2018 campus recruitment for the first time the top consultancies McKinsey, BCG and Bain & Co had made equal offers to females and males and the trend continues. “It was a 10-year-strategy to improve gender diversity, which is now paying off,” he says. “The pendulum is shifting. You can’t keep educated, aspirational women down for long,” he concludes.

Published on August 18, 2020

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