Q. The addition of the seats was just one of a host of measures you took to increase gender diversity. Why did you make that effort at all?
A. If you take out diversity, you run a monolith for 50 years. The IIMs have been around since 1961. First, I looked at the data on gender diversity for the 50 years, the presence of women through CAT scores.
In the top three IIMs (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta), women’s representation was about 8-10 percent. The playing field is skewed against girls. After 20-odd years, the parents’ attention is on boys. They want to send boys to coaching centres. With girls, it is divided between marriage and other things. There isn’t equal emphasis.
These lenses (tests) measure test-taking ability, not managerial ability.
In 2012, we looked at Class 10 and 12 scores as additional inputs. In Class 10, there’s less discrimination. With these scores as factors, girls began to get into the interviews more. I got a lot of flak from my peers.
Q. Why were you criticised?
A. People said I was tampering with meritocracy. But in 2012, the government had also started saying gender diversity is critical and Parliament should have equal representation. The tide of the times saved me although there was opposition from sister institutions and from our women faculty, which was surprising. Girls who had made it earlier found this inappropriate.
Q. Even the women students were unhappy?
A. They thought their hard work to beat the system would be diluted. I was vindicated when we looked at placements for boys and girls in the first year of summer placements and found the ratio had shifted to girls. Out of the first 100 jobs, 60 went to girls. This was indicative of where industry was going.
Recruiters said it was their mandate to keep the ratio of management trainees equal. Where were they going to get that diversity from unless the IIMs had equal representation? This changed the ecology. In 2012, IIM Kozhikode had 54 percent women in the ranks.
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