Wanted: A Girl in a B school!!!
To begin with, I am NOT a feminist: I don’t actively promote “Women’s Lib” or “Emancipation of Women” or any such Raja Ram Mohan Royisc sentiments. I am just an ordinary girl-next-door who does all the regular things that young women do: crib about work, bad hair days, body fat and men.
I also love clothes, shoes and chick lit. And no, I am no Indra Nooyi or Kiran Mazumdar Shaw in the making. I am just like the majority of women on any B school campus, who don’t have much idea about what they want to do with their lives nor are they fiercely ambitious about being among the Who’s Who in the corporate world. But somehow I ended up in the male dominated bastion of first a B school and then an Investment Bank.
Going back a few years, I remember crying like a baby because I failed to get admission into engineering, and thanks to my abysmal 12th standard marks, I could only clear the cut-off for the Bachelor of Arts course. So, at the ripe old age of 18, when my career was written off, I decided I should prepare for CAT and do my MBA. Accordingly, I enrolled for coaching classes and for the first time, even before I had made it to a B school, I realized how lop-sided the gender equation was even among MBA aspirants. Almost 70% of the students were guys, and most of them engineers. Even among the few girls, most were engineers and a remaining few were B.Com or C.A.s. B.A. graduates like me were hard to come by, and I was almost written off even before I wrote the entrance exam.
But personally, I don’t think MBA colleges have any bias towards engineers (except of course NITIE and the IITs which are only open to engineers); it is we, as students, who make it a psychological barrier. The entrance tests are designed to gauge your foundations in basic Maths and English and if you paid attention in school, you should be able to handle it. Colleges couldn’t care less if you are a girl or an engineer as long you are quick, logical, well-spoken and well-read, because that’s what it takes to be successful in the corporate world.
Clearing the entrance exam puts you through another elaborate round of GD/PI sessions, where the number of girls is even lesser and as for B.A. graduates, they are simply NOT there. So in the 13 interviews that I attended, I was happy to be among the three or four girls in a group of 10, and on most occasions, the ONLY one with an Arts background. While this was a considerable advantage because most B schools are looking for variety in a batch, I would still have to know my Statistics/ Economics well. There was no leniency simply because I was a girl, but yes, if it came down to choosing between me and say a guy with two years of experience in TCS, who was at the same score as me, I would probably get the nod, by virtue of being a girl and a non-engineer. In fact, some Tier 1 colleges make a conscious effort to maintain a 50:50 balance which is why they make their selection criteria more subjective and not strictly cut-off oriented. So you would evidently find more women in S.P. Jain or SCMHRD which give profile-based calls and look beyond your entrance exam score, more on the lines of business schools abroad. And yes, I got calls from both colleges despite not-so-high CAT/SNAP scores, so I suppose a “different” profile plays an important role in the context of the overall batch composition.
Once I was on campus, the obvious advantage of being a girl is your social life suddenly takes off!! With the usual 1:3 ratio, as a girl, you are completely spoilt for choice when it comes to men.
Otherwise, nobody really gives a damn if you are an IIT engineer or a spa-management graduate (we had both in our batch); you would still be expected to solve complicated accounts assignments or clear Excel VBA exams, at least in the first semester, where you can’t choose your subjects. But somehow the beauty of variety (may because I went to a college which valued variety and hence wasn’t completely lopsided in favour of engineers) is that it allows you to interact with different kinds of people from different walks of life with different skill sets. So I could always find people ready to trade HR/Strategy assignments with the quant subjects. While I was a strictly below-average student when it came to grades, the theory of comparative advantage allowed me to clear my MBA in two years. I figured out that the key to survival in a B school or for that matter in the corporate world is to make the right friends!
As far as placements are concerned, there wasn’t any blatant advantage of being a girl, except that you were again in a minority, and other things remaining same, you would have a slight advantage over your male engineer counterpart. But still you would have to scream your way through a GD and make sensible points in the interview. However, as the natural trend goes, operations was more the forte for the male students, while girls were preferred for HR roles, but that has more to do with inherent skills than deliberate choices.
Now, almost two years into the corporate world, I really haven’t seen any discriminatory treatment meted out to women. If anything, the gender ratio in the workplace, at least at the junior level, is much healthier than in a B school. However, what does bother me is that most of the senior level positions (VPs and Directors) are evidently cornered by men, and I can’t help wondering if somewhere down the road, we tend to slip off the corporate ladder. I see a lot of women quitting their jobs because they are getting married or because their husbands are getting transferred (and in most occasions, these girls are as educated/successful as their husbands), but very few guys make that compromise. Not that I am a proponent of being an inflexible corporate slave, but I find it a little difficult to accept this reality. Of course, things are changing gradually, where decision are made on more practical grounds and not traditional grounds. Hopefully, some day, I would see my friends in CXO profiles, while their husbands shift cities to be with them. As for me, I look forward to quitting my job soon to become a writer: one profession, which is completely gender-proof! For years, I thought End Blyton was a man!!
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