There is no doubt that the batch composition of the IIMs needed more diversity. At InsideIIM.com, we support the idea of increasing the number of women and non-engineers in a batch to provide an experience that introduces all kinds of perspectives in the 2 year MBA programme equivalent at the IIMs - the PGP. However, not at the cost of merit.
It is interesting to note the two different approaches of the old IIMs.
Let's understand this using our national religion - Cricket. Assume that admissions chairpersons are curators of a pitch. There are two types of curators. Curators of Type 1 decided to prepare a pitch and provide conditions favorable for one team (i.e. women to get into the IIMs). However, both teams will get to play in the same conditions and the rules remain the same for both teams. Given the conditions, the best team would win. The number of overs, fielding restrictions etc. remain the same for both teams.
Type 2 curators also decided to prepare pitches favorable for one team (i.e. women to get into the IIMs). However, they also changed the rules and standards for that team. They said that the other team (men) needs to chase down the total put up by the first team in half the number of overs. If they bat first, they need to restrict the other team to less than half the runs put up by them. In short, the best team will not win.
Type 1 curators consists of IIMs Ahmedabad, Indore and Bangalore.
Type 2 consists of IIMs Lucknow, Kozhikode and Calcutta.
What Type 2 curators have done is not a veiled but a very explicit form of reservation. It all started last year when IIM Lucknow introduced this for CAT 2011 i.e Class of 2014. They managed to take the number of women to 170 in a batch. IIM Kozhikode (the original champion of increasing women in IIMs) intent to wrest back pole position went a step ahead. 5 marks for being female. 85%ile CAT cutoff with no sectional cutoffs. IIM Calcutta also took a leaf out of this 'different rules for different players' book this year. They have managed to score a century for the first time.
The question is - Is it necessary to go so far? IIM Bangalore and IIM Indore have shown that one doesn't need to give extra marks to women to increase diversity. Both have over 100 of them in their batch. In fact, even IIM K managed to do it for 2 years before they changed their criteria this year. IIM A has also increased its tally of women without doling out any freebies to women.
It is plain unfair to a deserving male candidates. There are people with 99+ percentile with great academics but have not made it because of this new policy of the IIMs C,L,K. The IIMs can change their criteria as they wish but it needs to consistent for all applicants. Already, 50% of the seats have been lost to reservations. (We have written about the extra ordinary relaxation of standards here). A General category male is just unwanted irrespective of his credentials. And surprisingly, no one seems to see anything wrong with that.
Recruiter Angle - The assumption that more women help placements needs examination. IIM Kozhikode had over 130 women participating in a batch of 325 in this year's Final Placements process. From the data available in the public domain as released by all the older IIMs, IIM K has had a relatively weaker final placement season when compared to twin IIM Indore or big brother IIM Lucknow - both having far lesser women and much bigger batch sizes. (IIM L placement report will be released soon. IIM A,B and C are expected to do better in any case with more women or less.)
Companies want to increase gender diversity in their workforce and it is welcome. However, it would be naive to believe that they would do it at the cost of merit. Given two individuals of same caliber but different gender, it is understandable that companies will choose the fairer sex. But to assume that women with lesser accomplishments will be chosen for a job over men with a better record is not prudent.
Our view - Create maximum possibilities for women to be able to join the IIMs. Make the criteria favorable to women. Scrap the CAT if you want. Remove Quant (There is a perception that Men do better than women at quant). But, please do not do away with merit. The rules of the game need to be the same for both. Do not judge people on different yardsticks just because of the gender. It is as insulting to deserving women as it is unfair to deserving men who fail to get in.
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