I am not being bold here. I am fairly confident it will happen. In fact, we can even predict which of the older 6 IIMs will have 100 women. It is based on experience and the already announced shortlisting criteria of all the IIMs.
The figure of 100+ is assuming that batch sizes don't increase. They are unlikely to shrink. To stretch the prediction a little, one can expect 2 of them to cross the figure of 150 as well.
Never before has the short listing criteria been so blatant in signalling the intent to fill the IIMs with more women (We wrote a piece analyzing shortlisting criteria here).
Let's look at the background for this. The clamour for including more women/diversity is not new.
About a decade ago, one never knew one's percentile. Yes. Seems unimaginable now but that's the way it was. You would just be called for a GD-PI process and only the call getters would know about it. If you didn't get a call you didn't make it. You didn't know how you had done at the test at all. Also, remember that the CAT paper was never given to the test taker after the Test till up to CAT 2004 (We must thank Ranjit Don and his CAT paper leak scandal for a few reforms!). So, there was considerable room for the IIMs to call people the way they wanted and even make final selections based on the diversity of the class. It is no surprise that batches prior to 2005 were much more diverse than the ones after at most of the top IIMs.
One IIM director has publicly admitted to IIMs 'fuzzing' the results earlier to ensure diverse representation in a class. Then, came the RTI Act and more importantly the media spotlight on burgeoning salaries. The first fall out was the intense scrutiny of the selection process which led to every inch of subjectivity being thrown out of the window. (The second fallout was politicians' interest in the IIMs/IITs etc. and the demand for reservations but that is a topic for another post.) All the IIMs had to call people on CAT percentiles. Now this is not to say conclusively that earlier they used other parameters to call people as well, but given the fact that diversity quotient of previous batches was higher it is possible that CAT percentile may not have been the only factor that was considered. But we will never know. IIM B made its complex formula public to call people. IIM B had a reputation of sending out surprise calls to people at 95-96 percentile back when percentiles were available but selection criteria was still not made public.
It was CAT 2006 results when all the IIMs released selection criteria for the first time but there was a catch. It was released after the results. Percentile cutoffs became public and one knew why they didn't make the cut. But at the same time one more phenomenon took hold. 90%+ Engineers entering IIMs. It was because little or no weight was given to past academic record by all the remaining 5 IIMs except IIM B. This continued through to CAT 2007 as well. IIM A and IIM C used to call people strictly on CAT percentile. IIM L experimented for the first time with a very low 30% weight to the CAT score. IIM I brought in acads but CAT weight was still very high - 90% and IIM K was still only CAT. You can read shortlisting criteria for 2007 here. This was also a time when a large number of overlaps took place and it was routine for a high scorer to get 5 calls (IIM B was always a mystery).
It was in 2008 when I really got first hand experience of a shift. I cleared all cutoffs in CAT 2008 and still did not get an interview call from places I really desired. There was no normalization in a particular IIM and hence despite a great CAT percentile and good acads I still didn't manage enough calls. I was so cross with the world that I actually visited one of the IIMs and managed to meet the admissions chairperson there. In an off the record conversation the person said very clearly, that the mandate given to them was to get more women in the batch and they used an algorithm/formula for shortlisting that ensured maximum women could be called for interviews. The person also said it was probably unfair on a few of us but in the larger scheme of things it was very difficult to please all. It was said that there is no fair way of normalizing scores and even after normalization some people were bound to feel disappointed because of the nature of our country. Apparently, the admissions office had received requests from far flung places to reduce the cutoffs of verbal for students from vernacular schools as they had poor grounding in English. One person there also believed women who wrote the CAT exam during their periods were at a disadvantage because CAT back then was still a one-day - 150 Min affair.
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Online CAT to Present Day and the Race for Women
CAT went online and we returned to the black box situation. No one can predict their own performance at the CAT. Normalization of difficulty level across slots is bound to be subjective and no one really buys the 'scientific' explanation of the test creators. The much revered CAT lost its sheen. Many within the IIM fraternity weren't too happy about it.
Also, all the old IIMs have been trying to call unique candidates. A criteria that ensures minimum overlap with others and hence better acceptance rate of offers. All the old IIMs except IIM Calcutta used different parameters to call candidates. IIM K has a first stage shortlist which is basically everyone above 85%ile overall (Lower for reserved categories). They also ask a question though. Which other IIM calls have you have received ?
IIM C kept focusing only on CAT. But not anymore. Although it still gives the maximum weight to the CAT Percentile among all the old IIMs, it has clearly decided to attract more women as well. It was IIM K that grabbed all the headlines in 2010 by twisting the criteria in such a way that somehow 100 women entered an IIM for the first time. The year after Indore joined Kozhikode in managing over 90 women. In 2012, Lucknow decided to give extra marks for being a female candidate. And Voila! IIM Lucknow had almost 170 women in the Class of 2012-14! The number of women at IIM I and IIM K actually went down because of this. IIM B also ensured 100 women entered IIM B for the first time.
This year this race has gone to another level. IIM C has entered the fray saying it will ensure diversity by giving extra points for being a female, borrowing from IIM L's experiment. IIM K in order to ensure it retains its image as a gender diverse campus has decided to give a huge advantage to female candidates applying to IIM K again borrowing from the IIM L experiement. It has also abolished sectional cutoffs. Not to be left behind IIM Indore has created a basic filter of 90 percentile overall with 85+ in either sections and has said that once you achieve this, shortlisting is dependent 100% on your SSC/HSC/Grad marks (lower filters for reserved categories). Now, there has been some research which says women do well at these exams and hence they are also hoping to net a big population of women. IIM B will again try to maintain its three digit girl count.
The only real catch here is - How many of these calls will be overlapping? The reason why there is so much gaming involved among the admissions committee of different IIMs is that there is a limited pool of women involved even after applying all the various criteria. Almost all the cards seem to have been exhausted to try and make the selection criteria different yet objective. It is one step away from being subjective like it is in foreign schools or even closer home at ISB. IIMs have been wary of applying a subjective criteria in order to avoid a deluge of possible RTIs and accusations of unfair selection. Hence, some have introduced pseudo-reservation by giving extra points for being a female.
The 100+ Women Club
IIM K,L and B are the only ones to touch the 100 mark with IIM K doing it in 3 consecutive batches. IIM L & B are recent entrants. IIM I's (Class of 2013) has 90+. The larger batch sizes have allowed IIMs to admit more women. As I write this, IIM K is planning to increase the batch size to 400 joining IIM I,L and C in the 400+ club (They are all 450+).
IIM B,L,I,K will all cross the 100 figure when the new class is admitted. The only reason IIM C may not manage it even after giving extra points to women is the high dependence on CAT Percentile (77%). As data tells us, fewer women do well at CAT as compared to men (also because significantly lower number of women take the test). For e.g. 255 women scored over 99 percentile. The number of men doing that is 7 times more. IIM A will find it tough to increase the number of women by a very big margin given their criteria of 70% weight to CAT and fierce competition for women from the other IIMs.
The danger for IIM K and IIM I is that if the more sought after IIMs start admitting more women they will lose out. The only option then is to increase the pool of women to be selected from and give unique calls to women. They seem to have recognized that and tweaked their shortlisting criteria accordingly.
So, I predict 4 centuries at least. A couple of them could cross 150. Any bets on a double century?
- Ankit Doshi
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