Business schools across the globe vie to make it to the top of the line in the international rankings by various agencies.

Most agencies include some standard parameters for ranking:

  • Curriculum
  • Infrastructure
  • Employability/employment rate
  • Job placements
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership development
  • Quality of faculty
  • Location
  • Industry connections
  • Racial diversity
  • Gender diversity

B-schools strive to match global standards to meet the various parameters. The Indian Institute of Management is a model institute the other B-schools emulate. However, most older IIMs have slipped in the sex ratio for the PGP program this year.

The total number of women admitted to the flagship PGP program across India’s senior IIMs – Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Indore, Kozhikode, and Lucknow totals 917 for the incoming batch, compared to 1,028 women from last year’s batch. The six IIMs together report an eleven per cent drop in female students for the 2021-2023 batch from the 2020-2022 batch for the PGP program.

IIM Ahmedabad is the only older IIM to record a twenty-eight per cent boost in the female student ratio. IIM-A has admitted 109 girls for the class of 2023, up from 85 girls for the class of 2022. An IIM-A spokesperson mentioned gender diversity as instrumental to learning at IIM-A, where learning happens amid discussions.

Experts have pinned the drop in female ratio at IIMs on the fewer girls taking CAT 2020 (the Common Admission Test). While the junior IIMs were eager to show an improved gender ratio, the senior ones had to settle for more boys.

The Economic Times data shows gender diversity fell after a remarkable three-year growth. The data recorded 31.8% of girls across the IIMs for the class of 2023, a drop from 36% in the class of 2022. The class of 2021 had 33.5% girls, and the class of 2020 had 26% girls.

IIM Bangalore and IIM Lucknow have not shown much change in the number of girls admitted. IIM-B has admitted 144 girls this year, compared to 145 last year. IIM-L admitted 165 girls this year, compared to 171 girls last year.

IIM Calcutta witnessed a fall in female student admissions. The class of 2023 has 149 girls (31%), compared to 171 girls (36%) in 2022.

Himanshu Rai, director of IIM Indore, reiterated the experts’ comments on the fall in female admissions this year. He regretted that fewer girls took the CAT last year – 66,755 girls took CAT 2020 while 75,004 girls took CAT 2019. Mr. Rai also revealed that their selection process remained unchanged about awarding extra marks to women CAT takers. IIM-I admitted 163 girls this year compared to 199 last year – a drop of 33% from 40% of girls in the batch.

IIM Kozhikode director Debashish Chatterjee, confessed that IIM-K has been focusing on gender diversity long before other IIMs joined the league of admitting more female students. IIM Kozhikode admitted 187 girls (39 per cent) for the incoming batch compared to 256 girls (52 per cent) last year. However, twenty-odd IIMs are currently trying to woo the same girls, leaving a smaller piece of the pie for each institute. Mr. Chatterjee pointed out the importance of gender diversity for all B-schools as it is an essential parameter in global rankings.

Although the number of women who take the CAT has increased, the demand for girls’ admissions has also grown cumulatively.

The newer IIMs that admit students with lower CAT scores have not shied away from admitting more women.

IIM Sambalpur’s present batch has 48% girls in the class with 165 students. The institute relaxes a 5% lower CAT score for its interview calls. Mahadeo Jaiswal, director of IIM Sambalpur, confessed that every other new IIM also follows the gender-inclusive admission policy.

Employers who recruit from campuses look for gender diversity too.

Rajkamal Vempati, HR head at Axis Bank, finds an acceptable representation of women on campuses necessary for a healthy pipeline, generating more female leaders. Axis Bank recruits many women from campuses and might scale up the current trend in the future.

Narayanan Ramaswamy, sector head, education and skill development, KPMG India, has found changes happening over time. However, fluctuations of a year or two are not worrying as the future trends are likely to turn. He insists on taking intensifying measures to improve gender diversity. He suggests opening courses entreating more women from diverse backgrounds and admitting girls from rural India with lower cut-offs.

The COVID-19 pandemic might be the culprit that saw a drop in CAT aspirants. Boys taking the CAT fell by 8.5% last year too. Once the pandemic eases, one can hope for the situation to normalize among both CAT takers and IIM admissions.

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