Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Women and the MBA : Change in management demographics across geographies

Hello readers! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! We are back with another series of posts this week and this time we’d be looking at ‘Women and the MBA’. To date we have found that there remain some myths and pre conceived notions attached to the female demographic in the MBA domain and in the mind of the average person, business schools are still associated less with women than men in a lot of South Asian countries, especially places like Thailand, Vietnam and of course, India. However, we are trying to bust some myths in this series and this is the first one of those myths. So, if you are one of the people who think on similar lines, then you might be in for a pleasant surprise. 
Let’s see why! There has been something of a paradigm shift in the global MBA demographic trends from 1980’s and early 90’s. This is substantiated if you look at the statistics; at top international business schools, on average, women now constitute 35% of an MBA class as compared to about 20% in 1989. While 35% is still a minority share, what’s encouraging is that more and more women are preparing for MBA admissions processes than ever before. Also, this is happening in big way in the geographies that one did not earlier associate with such trends. If you were to look at specific business schools here, then the Wharton Business School leads the pack with 40% of its entire MBA population in the class of 2012 being women. What’s more, together, these students represent a total of 68 countries.

When one talks about countries where there are more women who are preparing to take the GMAT than men, the immediate guesses would generally have been countries such as the U.S., Canada or maybe the UK.   Therefore, it should come as quite a revelation that in fact, more women than men are taking the GMAT in China, Russia, Vietnam and Thailand and this embodies a huge wave of change across the world where more and more women are choosing Management as a career option over previously preferred occupations for women in Asian countries like teaching, administrative work or becoming a home maker. Over a quarter of a century ago, most women in these developing countries  who are now looking at entering B-schools were not even born, and their parents perhaps did not foresee that their girl child would be sitting across a computer taking English-language standardized tests, in her endeavour to go overseas for a Management degree and subsequently a management career.
So why is this happening? Of course, the female empowerment movement across the world, the emphasis on equality of sexes, not just in the west, but in the eastern world too is likely a key reason; and increased exposure and opportunities have a lot to do with this change. However, there is another factor  that has contributed to this trend; that top B-schools  & organizations around the world are realizing that there is a set of qualities that women unusually posses which in some cases make for better manager and more efficient leaders. Women are universally known to be more well organized, more patient, with better people skills and more composed at times of taking important decisions- all qualities required for a good management student & professional.
Judy B. Rosener was one of the first people to observe this in her revolutionary & path breaking article titled ‘Way women Lead’ published in the Harvard Business Review in 1990. In the article Judy says, “The women’s success shows that a non–traditional leadership style is well suited to the conditions of some work environments and can increase an organization’s chances of surviving in an uncertain world. It supports the belief that there is strength in a diversity of leadership style.”

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