18 Dec 2015 16:42 IST

Never a better time for women to do an MBA

Both corporates and B-schools are now seeking gender diversity

We have more than 1.3 lakh women at Accenture worldwide, and have pledged to grow the percentage of women new hires to at least 40 per cent worldwide by 2017 — Parag Pande, HR Head, Accenture, Global Lead for Learning and Talent Development Operations

More than 35 per cent of our total workforce is women, and Infosys sees educated and ambitious women as a huge advantage for the organisation to attract the best talent and create a diverse and inclusive workplace — Richard Lobo, SVP and Head HR, Infosys.

In almost 10-11 months we have increased the percentage of women in the company by 2 per cent. It is a key priority for us to bring gender balance to the organisation. How we see it is that there is a direct correlation in people indicators and financial indicators — Rachna Mukherjee, CHRO, Schneider Electric India

Parag Pande

Richard Lobo

Rachna Mukherjee

Accenture, Infosys, and Schneider, are all different companies with one leitmotif: to boost the percentage of women in their respective organisations. And it isn’t just at the upper echelons of management that they are looking to hire more women but even at the entry level through campus recruitments at business schools and engineering colleges. For women weighing the option of pursuing an MBA, this may be the right time to take the plunge as opportunities abound. Affirmative action is what B-schools are looking at, driven by the desire for gender diversity and the need for more women at various corporate levels. Most companies’ new hires are expected to be 40-45 per cent of women. However, a large part of the talent pool is falling short, with top Indian B-schools having no more than 30 per cent women candidates in their current batches.

The percentage of women candidates at IIM Ahmedabad this year was just 14 per cent while at IIM Calcutta it is close to 20 per cent. At IIM Bangalore, it is slightly higher at 28 per cent. The number of women candidates too has dropped, despite IIMs making a conscious effort to bring more women on board by changing the CAT pattern and admissions criteria.

“The gender ratio at business schools needs more attention as most of the institutes have an average diversity of less than 27 per cent,” says Pande of Accenture.

Why businesses need women

Businesses globally have understood the need for a balanced workforce now and are aggressively working towards achieving a balanced gender ratio.

“Diversity is not just about creating a heterogeneous workforce, but using that workforce to create innovative products, services, and business practices that can set Ericsson apart in the global and local marketplace,” says a company statement.

“We hire lot of women at the entry level. Last year, we hired 45 per cent women candidates from different campuses during recruitments. This year we hired 72 per cent women," says Rachna Mukherjee of Schneider. “We want more women across all levels in the organisation because it gives us a better understanding of the consumer profile and talent pool."

To read exclusive content from The HinduBusinessLine-MBAUniverse's Inform and Inspire, a special handbook for MBA aspirants, click here .

Corporates, now more than ever, are looking at business schools to fill the gap as entry-level women candidates form the pipeline for women in leadership roles in the future.

“There is a direct correlation between the number of women graduating from business schools and engineering colleges, and the number who will get hired in organisations. If there is a larger pool graduating, the chances of having more women on board are much higher,” elaborates Mukherjee.

Partnering for diversity

With fewer women MBAs across most Indian B-schools, many companies are now partnering with institutes that have a higher number of women candidates in order to attract the best talent and add to diversity.

“Our focus is to target hiring more than the institute’s diversity mix. To attract the best talent, we make investments in defining, discovering and tapping the best talent pool,” says Pande of Accenture. “We have partnered with campuses to organise alumni connects, contests, showcase that kind of work and counsel students.”

"We have identified campuses from where we can get a higher number of women, and we recruit from there," adds Schneider’s Mukherjee.

Some of the business schools that boast of a healthy gender diversity include Mumbai-based We School (55 per cent women), XLRI School of Management Jamshedpur, and Delhi University’s Faculty of Management Studies. The Hyderabad and Mohali campuses of the Indian School of Business too have consistently maintained the percentage of women candidates at 30, at least.

In an earlier interview to BusinessLine, ISB’s Deputy Dean, Savita Mahajan, said: “Diversity of any kind; in educational background, gender and culture, is very useful in the learning process. It brings different skill-sets and perspectives in the analysis of a problem situation and the possible solutions. Particularly in management education, where the case method is used to illustrate real-life situations, usually there is no single ‘right’ answer. Diverse opinions can challenge the mainstream view, and throw up out-of-the-box solutions.”

Call for more women in B-Schools

The intense focus on quantitative aptitude can be one of the reasons for fewer women in Indian business schools, according to experts. “The MBA entrance exams are so quantitative-oriented that it keeps out more and more women from joining the MBA classes. If we were to make the entrance exams more all-rounded you could see more participation,” Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and CEO of ICICI Bank, had said at a recent event.

An alumna of Mumbai-based Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management, Kochhar had questioned the need for so much focus on quant, saying a course on developing general managerial abilities does not require such a high level of quantitative aptitude. Making constructive changes in the way admissions are conducted may help get more women on board.

In an earlier interview to BusinessLine, Great Lakes’ former Executive Director S Sriram said that traditionally, very few women pursued higher education and those who did got into humanities and social sciences as, career-wise, most aspired to become teachers or take up jobs of similar nature.

“Modern women are pursuing engineering and other professional courses and, naturally, they aspire to become managers and leaders of organisations. This is the supply-side explanation.”

On the demand side, he explained, corporates are increasingly realising the importance of having women managers and leaders. They are not only good in people management and organisation-building due to their better developed EQ but also possibly usher in better corporate governance and ethics, as women tend to have less tolerance for compromise.

“Even research conducted after the 2008 crisis found that companies with more women on their boards suffered less,” said Sriram.

(With inputs from Vinay Kamath)

Recommended for you