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IIM’s quest for diversity results in more women, non-engineers on campus

The diversity quota at IIMs, which gives weightage to the background of a student and holistic profile, has given rise to more females, non-engineers and others from diverse backgrounds.

Written by Shyna Kalra | New Delhi |
Updated: November 29, 2020 11:04:12 am, iim cat 2020 application form, cat 2020 admit card, iim cat 2020, education news, college admissions,IIM CAT 2020: Apply at Photo By Amit Mehra / Representational image)

The batch of 2020 will have a record-high number of females attending classes, according to data provided by the IIMs. While the overall enrollment of women in the premier B-school has been increasing over the years, the only top-ranked IIM showing a decline in this trend is IIM-Ahmedabad. It is also among the few IIMs to not give extra weightage to women.

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Despite having equal rights, the representation of women remains low in Indian higher education institutes as compared to their male counterparts. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) decided to change this early this decade and offered diversity quotient under which weightage was given to the background of a student during the interview round. Gender-diversity also gets weightage in majority of the IIMs. As a result, not only more women but also people from diverse academic and social backgrounds have got greater access to IIMs in the current academic year.

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Errol D’Souza, Director, IIM-A told, “We are conscious about the efficacy of increasing the percentage of women entering our classes. The achievements are slow as the goal is not to give extra credits or specify a quota for gender or other diversity attributes in the admissions process.” This year’s batch at IIM-A will have 85 women, down from 92 last year.

This raises the question, is the diversity quotient the major driver behind the increased female enrollments at IIMs?

IIM-Kozhikode’s second-time director Debashis Chatterjee who claims to have started the trend of giving weightage to gender diversity in 2012, told that the idea behind the quota was to address larger social issues and offer a level playing field to women.

“We had studied data of past years of different IIMs before introducing the gender diversity weightage. We found that only about 8-10 per cent of the students were females. We had realised that this is happening because the number of women applying for Common Admission Test (CAT) — the entrance exam for IIMs — was low. Women did not have as much access to coaching preparedness, parents were also skewed towards supporting male children more to pursue masters level courses. The idea was to create aspiration among females. We had more than 50 per cent females that year which is a record high till now,” he said.

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Chatterjee thinks that this is a strategic move and not compensatory. “We do not just randomly give marks to girls; it is a strategic move. During the interview round, we look for the holistic journey of the candidate. For instance, a student coming from a remote village of Bihar and a student from a premier institute in Mumbai will have different journeys. We look at the profile of students from class 10 onward along with their CAT score rather than just assessing them on a one-time assessment matrix of the CAT.”

In last year’s placement — of the first 100 job offers at IIM-K — 60 went to girls, said Chatterjee who believes that demand for diverse institutes also arises from the industry which is looking to have more gender-balanced board rooms. He, however, also noted, “While the number of females has increased in full-time courses, the case is opposite in executive courses as women have an additional glass ceiling to break at mid-career levels.”

Even at the IIM-B, which has seen an increase in women enrollment from 28.13 per cent last year to 37.41 per cent in this year’s PGP courses, the number of women in other long-duration certificate programmes including executive-level courses have either declined or remained the same, the IIM said. “The trend in PGP is equivalent to the trend that we see these days on any other board exam where women students perform better than their male counterparts. Probably it is their focus and hardworking nature that works in their favour,” said Ashis Mishra, chairperson, admissions and financial aid, IIM-B.

Anju Seth, Director, IIM-Calcutta, believes that “inclusivity and diversity” represent the “core values” of the institute. In their upcoming batch, 35 per cent are females, 20 per cent are non-engineers and 60 per cent are students with prior work experience. She said that apart from the government mandates, the IIM also “encourages additional dimensions of diversity including academic and gender diversity. We also try our best to facilitate seamless learning and programme experience for all.” 

The IIM-C has 24 seats reserved for PwD candidates. The institute claims to make special arrangements for each differently-abled student before they join the institute. The IIM has a special software for candidates with disabilities related to vision and hearing.

IIM-K has also nearly doubled the number of non-engineers at its campuses from 28 per cent in 2019 to 40 per cent this year. This trend too is common among all the IIMs who have diversity quota.

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