Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, wants to become the first IIM
to create 60 additional seats exclusively for women
in its flagship post-graduate programme for management. This, media reports said, will help the institute to improve its gender
Faced with criticism for their largely “male-only, engineer” classrooms, other IIMs have also been trying to encourage gender
diversity by tweaking the screening process of applicants. At IIM
Bangalore, for example, the proportion of girls in the 2017-19 batch was 28 per cent — the highest ever. IIM
Calcutta did even better — a third of the students were girls, compared to just 16 per cent in the previous batch. Both achieved this by giving higher weightage to gender
diversity in the Common Admission Test
A) has also achieved higher gender
diversity, which is evident from the 28 per cent representation of women
in the 2017-19 PGP batch. It was 21 per cent in the previous year. IIM
A has said, this has been achieved without giving extra weightage or holding specific quotas, but by devising a formula that does not compromise on quality.
IIMs should be doing their bit to have more women
in classrooms. However, is giving higher weightage to gender
diversity the best way to go? The jury is out on this. Many say the artificial weightage to gender
diversity leads to dilution of merit-based admissions to some of India’s best educational institutes. After all, entry to IIMs should not be seen as filling a quota.
Corporate India, which has been criticised for having very few women
in their boardrooms, is familiar with this debate. But the consensus among senior women
executives themselves is that while companies must identify and remove any barriers to female participation in senior roles, the concept of a quota for women
directors is way beyond any sensible boundary of regulation.
Ask the CEO of any company, even those led by women, and the response is uniform: It would lay women
board members open to criticism, giving the impression that they don’t deserve to be there and are only there to make up the numbers. A corporate boardroom has no place for such a patronising approach. That may be the reason reservation for women
in boardrooms is dismissed by many as a “golden skirts quota”.
Companies, of course, should do more to have more women
in senior positions. In its study on women
in corporate Asia, McKinsey said greater gender
diversity was not a strategic priority for 70 per cent of the CEOs. Around 50 per cent of the graduates in Asia are women, but only a fraction of that number makes it to the middle management, let alone the top. On an average, women
account for six per cent of the seats on corporate boards, and eight per cent on executive committees. The situation is worse in India, which features among the bottom three countries. This needs to be corrected, but women
should not enter boardrooms only because of their gender.
Those who do, must do so through a proven track record of having put in enough in their professional development. The same criteria are used by companies to evaluate male candidates.
Coming back to IIMs, instead of forcing gender
diversity, these institutes should focus more on academic diversity, that is, having more non-engineering students. It is true that the IIMs have remained a bastion of engineering graduates for long, and that needs to change. As most engineering colleges have more male students than female, the number of women
getting admission in IIMs is less. This is apparent from the total number of applicants appearing for the CAT
exam — 70 per cent are men and 30 per cent are women.
will be encouraged to apply only if the CAT
exam pattern is not biased towards quantitative skills, giving an unfair advantage to engineers. The questions should be framed in a manner that they create a level field for students of all streams, including humanities and commerce. Some IIMs have started doing that, as a result of which the number of students with non-engineering backgrounds has been rising steadily. For example, the IIM-A
batch for 2017-19 saw the share rise from 20 per cent a year earlier to 32 per cent. That automatically leads to better gender