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Gender profile indicates Indian women mean business

Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 18 Jul 2011 03:24 GMT
Author: R. Madhavan Nair// The Hindu
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By R. Madhavan Nair

The Hindu

July 13, 2011

 

The nearly three-fold rise in the number of female students in the latest batch at the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode (IIMK) has to be seen as a clear signal of the rising aspirations of women in the country, Prof. Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIMK has said.

“It indicates women really mean business…. From a lacklustre 10 per cent of women intake that had been the standard format at IIMs for nearly half a century, it had risen to 35 per cent; there are nearly 35 women in a batch of 341 students at IIMK this year”, Dr. Chatterjee said, speaking to The Hindu.

He believes the change in the gender profile at IIMK would impact on the aspirations of Indian women. This was the second year in a row IIM had challenged the status quo in the IIM admissions process, he said.

He said this change at IIMK assumed a special significance in the context of the recent report of the Reuters Foundation about India. The report had placed India in the company of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo as one of the top five most dangerous countries to be born as a woman.

The IIMK gender profile this year was clear evidence that the greatest barrier for a girl child in India for realising her potential continued to be equality of opportunity, he remarked.

While preparing for the most arduous competitive exams in IITs and IIMs, most Indian parents spent more resources for “coaching” their boys than they would do for their girls. Besides, after graduation, a girl tended to think of marriage and the need to start a family, making her less competitive in these entrance examinations although she was no less intelligent than her male counterpart.

Dr. Chatterjee, who has taught in B-schools across the globe and has authored well acclaimed books on management, is convinced the face of educational leadership across the world is rapidly changing with women emerging as leaders.

Women emerging as leaders

This belief was reinforced after his recent meetings in the United States with three woman presidents of major universities: Drew Faust, the first woman president of Harvard University, Susan Hockfield, the first woman and the first life scientist to hold the position of president of MIT and Renu Khator, the first Indian-American woman to become the Chancellor and president of a major American school, the University of Houston.

All three had already shown they have distinctive views on education. Drew Faust shared the belief of many of her predecessors that “it is not Harvard’s job to make carpenters out of men but to make men out of carpenters”.

Renu Khator who comes from a small U.P. town of Farrukhabad was only 18 when she got married. Her husband, Suresh Khator, who now serves as Professor at the same university that Renu serves as

Chancellor, fulfilled her desire to learn and lead. Her story illustrated the rise of a first generation Indian immigrant from an obscure town in north India to hard earned glory in North America.

MIT’s president, Susan Hockfield, is a representative of the new narrative of higher education, which integrates rather than dissects issues and believes higher education is about plasticity of knowledge that “flows” seamlessly across rigid disciplines.

Said Dr. Chatterjee: “For a long time, higher education had been classified into false and misleading categories: physical versus life sciences, arts versus engineering. When knowledge flowed across disciplines, we gave birth to such emerging disciplines as biomechanics, nuclear medicine and conscious capitalism”.

He also believes in the rise of the creative whole brain from the predominant left-brain structures that ruled academia. …… The age of the whole brain will set right some of the asymmetries in our cortical hemispheres. In this, women who bring those soft cortical skills and big-picture perception of life to the job will triumph over lopsidedly analytical and data distracted left-brainers.

“Nurtured by this new leadership, the mantra of higher education will be more like what Harvard’s Drew Faust would like to imagine — making humans out of carpenters,” he said.

The rise of woman power also has the potential to bring about drastic changes in the nation’s educational scene. It is in that respect the change in gender profile at IIMK has a special significance”, Dr. Debashis Chatterjee remarked.

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