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Women Graduates: Fixing The Skewed Balance

Not just aspirants, even the government and B-school managements need to consciously launch reforms to promote female diversity on B-school campuses

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Top MBA programmes are usually among the most critical pipelines for future business leaders, which explains why creating an improved environment for women diversity in Indian B-schools has been an area of concern. With women being driven by competency, does the question of gender diversity has any meaning and, if yes, are the number of women entering B-schools really making a progress?

Indian B-schools are taking baby steps to shore up gender diversity in classrooms to bring in a balanced mix of male-female ratio in their classrooms. Talking about the selection process and current trends on female diversity, Ramakrishnan Raman, Dean of the Pune’s Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, says,   “At SIBM Pune, everything happens via SNAP, which is an entrance examination based purely on the merit. Generally we have a 60-40 ratio wherein 60 per cent are male and 40 per cent female. This is the overall trend followed by the institute for the past five years.”
At IMT Ghaziabad, the percentage of female candidates in the last five years has been 24.52, 20.66, 23.85, 25.70, 18.23, 28.30 and 21.70 per cent for the batches from 2012-14 to 2018-20. “Going by the percentage of female candidates in the last five years, we see a steady growth,” says Ashish K. Bhattacharyya, Director, IMT Ghaziabad. “For the batch 2018-20, the total female enrolments in PGDM courses was 622, while for the following years 2016-18, 2015-17, 2014-16, 2013-15, the number of female enrolments was 554, 675, 629, 571, respectively. Thus, there is clear trend that shows that number of woman graduates is rather on a rise!”

Down South at IIM Kozhikode, on an average there are 108 female graduates from the institute every year. “Women graduates, on an average, constitute 27 per cent of the graduating students every year. Although the number is low when compared to male graduates, it is in line with the percentage of female applicants in the entire CAT examination pool,” says IIM Kozhikode Director Debasis Chatterjee.

At IIM Bangalore, female diversity is an integral part of admissions. “At IIM Bangalore, 30 per cent of candidates giving the exam are women and they stand an equal chance of making it to IIMs at par with men,” says G. Raghuram, Director, IIM Bangalore.

The data in the table (‘Women Power’) shows the male-female ratio of students enrolled in IIM Bangalore. “Although it does not include the current batch, wherein one batch has graduated already and the other is coming out soon, we can say that the percentage of women has been increasing. I feel women compete equally with men and are selected on the basis of merit in the CAT entrance exam,” adds Raghuram.

B-schools today are sensitive towards enhancing diversity as women certainly possess a more serious and sincere performance orientation. The question arises then, do women B-school graduates differ from the male counterparts in terms of performance, management skills, IQ, EQ and leadership qualities? And what unique skill sets do women B-school graduates have that makes them different?

SIBM’s Raman says women graduates have unique skills. “First, female students are multitaskers and that is in their genes. Second, the ability to analyse is much higher in female students, and they can connect the dots to make complicated situations simple. Also, they have an ability to communicate and convince. Their  tolerance and tenacity level, the amount of sincerity and the quality of being meticulous in maintaining their notes is far better women students as compared to the male students. They are equal in IQ, EQ and other parameters, which they have already proven by cracking the entrance test.”

“At SIBM Pune, we have 9 student councils that are responsible for all the activities of the school, right from the point of admissions. We have an aspirant relations team, research teams placement advisory team, which has female/male student representatives who are also in 40:60 ratio. Looking at these councils, I find that women students are equal or sometimes better than the male counterparts,” says Raman.

SIBM’s current placement advisory team and student corporate social responsibility councils are headed by female students. “Women students are as good to take up leadership roles as males and, in fact, our Vice Chancellor and Dean, Academics are also females. As an institution, Symbiosis, Pune encourages women for leadership positions that are purely based on their competency and merit,” adds Raman.

IMT’s Bhattacharyya says, “It is evident by the fact that around 30 percent of the top 10 students are female students, so their IQ, EQ  is at par with the male students. Moreover they  enthusiastically take part in extracurricular activities.”
 While, stressing on gender equality in management, IIM-K’s Chatterjee says, “I don’t think there is any significant difference between men and women studying management, since they both need good common sense, an intellectual set of mind with a reasonable emotional quotient, and ability to work hard as long as they can. We, at IIM-K, have a comprehensive programme wherein both men and women do equally well. If you look at soft skills and administrative aspects, the performance of women are marginally better than men.”

Core Skills
With the increasing pace in innovation and the unprecedented number of choices available to the modern consumer and corporations, women today are moving towards leading a financially independent life. So, what are the core areas and fields of specialisation do women B-school graduates opt for and excel in?

“If you look at the gender spread there are not many women in operations. Most  women choose HR, Marketing and Finance in management programmes. In fact, female students are also more interested in working on Robotics and AI. Twenty years ago, in a class of 100 students of mechanical engineering, you would find only 2-3 female students. Today conventionally female students have been choosing Computer Science, Electronics & Communication and there is 50:50 or a 60:40 female-male ratio. Even if we look at the IoT sector or Industry 4.0 and other emerging technologies sectors, we find female students opting for these subjects, and it has become their forte,” says Raman. “Also, I don’t accept that the male counterparts are technologically savvy or anything. In fact, females use the latest gadgets and don’t shy away in using even the high-tech drones with equal ease,” he further adds.

Even if the percentage of females writing CAT examination has been around 30 per cent in the past three years, this percentage is showing an increase every year. In fact, B-schools are constantly launching initiatives to  bring in the right balance of gender diversity in the campus. “Improving gender diversity was a concept that pioneered by IIM-K in 2012. In 2018, IIM announced 60 supernumerary seats for a woman only batch to be admitted to IIM-K. The institute introduced modifications in its admission criteria that ensured more female student enrolment. IIM-K is fully committed to this mission and continues to fine tune its admission policy to maintain and improve gender diversity in its campus,” says Chatterjee.

“Symbiosis Pune offers scholarship programmes for female toppers of the class. Once they join, they have to prove their mettle to be eligible for such scholarships. We also have the Jayatee Deshmukh Award wherein female students are given a medal on the basis of their performance. Out of 10 medals, 8 are given to women students, as compared to the male students,” says Raman.

SIBM is in the planning stage of a full-time niche programme that will be particularly created for female students, which will certainly increase female numbers, it will take another year or so to formulate and bring it out, adds Raman.

Diversity At Workplace
To increase diversity in the system, organisations, too, must take into account the shifting expectations of a diverse pool. It is easy for the women to get through campus placements, but what are the challenges women face in retaining their jobs? “At the time of campus selections, we have a host of companies from consulting firms, banking, IT, Finance who hire students from IIM Bangalore as per their talent and aptitude. I don’t think that they consciously take more women or men, so there are women who perform well and across the spectrum, and so do men. Even during the programme they perform equally well but, when they get married, their numbers and size start decreasing in organisations due to family responsibilities and maternity and thus post that when they try to come back to work, that becomes very difficult. Thus, women need the support from the society, their families and also from corporate organisations in order to retain them,” says Raghuram.

Mindsets need to be changed even from a social point of view. To achieve this, support from the government is also crucial to increase female diversity in B-schools and at workplaces. Educating the girl child is vital element to this process, says Raman. “Diversity is still fine at Tier 1 and 2. But if you look at Tier 3 or rural India, a lot of awareness is required for the parents so that they can give the best education to their girl child as they are not treated the same way as the boy child. The government needs to create awareness that females are as good as the males at work. Rural women must be given jobs so that they are not looked upon as a burden,” says Raman. With the help of internet, mobile phones and apps, this information needs to reach the masses, he further adds.

Real-life Solutions
Raghuram says the fundamental question that society needs to address is: Why are there only 32-33 per cent women are taking the CAT exam? “There are stigmas in the society on giving postgraduation education to women, as they think that only graduation is enough. Even when daughters wants to take the CAT exams, families don’t want to invest in CAT coaching and take it as an additional expense, although they will support the son,” says Raghuram.

Female diversity and recruiting more women at workplaces is a part of discussion in most organisations. At the same time, women security and need for women-centric work places are also important. “If we can make the working environment and culture in companies comfortable for women, the percentage might increase,” says Bhattacharyya. “For example, we should introduce zero tolerance for sexual harassment. The social initiatives to promote more female participation in the field of management must focus on breaking all forms of discriminatory practices in all social institutions, starting with the family.”

It is time to empower women thereby upgrading skills. “The main question is how many B-school graduates turn entrepreneurs and that needs a focus both from B-schools, and the corporates, because that’s where men exceed in proportion,” says Raghuram. Like Raghuram points out, the need of the hour is to do special interventions like programmes for women entrepreneurs. “IIM-B has a prograamme called Management Programme for Women Entrepreneurs, which is open to corporate organisations who are willing to sponsor institutions to launch women entrepreneur programmes and also the government, which is very keen on supporting women entrepreneurship,” says Raghuram.

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India's Top B-school magazine 10 November 2018