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Giving concessions by class or gender is regressive & self-defeating

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  • karmayog - tanya
    http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/tZuCTEQdZCXPasYJXcigjP/By-merit-and-not-by-charity.html By merit and not by charity Giving concessions by class or gender is
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 22, 2013
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      By merit and not by charity

      Giving concessions by class or gender is completely regressive and, worse,

      Meeta Sengupta

      First Published: Mon, Jan 21 2013. 07 58 PM IST

      To be promoted for anything other than merit is no less than an insult. To
      seek advancement on anything but merit is foolish if not foolhardy-a gesture
      that is doomed to fail; a move that has the seeds of its own destruction
      built within itself. A person without the merit or ability to perform the
      task he or she has been elevated to is unlikely to perform well. So, what
      were they promoted to do? To prove Murphy's laws? After all, selection
      without merit is setting up a person for failure.

      There is a difference between giving people a chance to prove themselves in
      a challenging situation and systemically giving concessions by class or
      gender. Concessions are an act of charity. In golf, it is called a handicap.
      The recent decision by the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM C)
      to change its entry criteria to admit more women into the business school is
      one such retrograde move. It is deeply patronizing and clearly shows little
      knowledge of those the school seeks to encourage.

      The admission test is skewed towards engineers. This really has nothing to
      do with gender except for the fact that there are not enough women in the
      pool of engineers. If the test were to be skewed away from mathematics
      towards "writing" as the school claims, then it should be based on the type
      of student IIM C wants. Men are good writers too, and some of them too get
      left out by the test seemingly designed for the left-brained examination. If
      engineering training is useful to the group, then the school should continue
      with that and not seek to dumb down its cohort. And it definitely shouldn't
      offer concessions in the name of women.
      Yes, it is true that not enough women are represented in business schools,
      especially the "elite" ones. This does not necessarily reflect on the
      competence of women but on the choices they make in learning and in life-or
      the choices that have been imposed on them if they come from highly
      patriarchal families. A concession in the entrance criteria does not address
      any of these. The entry criteria should be changed if there is a need for
      diversity of competencies and skills. This may or may not be co-related to
      gender, a variable irrelevant to the design of a test that seeks merit.

      Women have formed between 10% and 25% of the cohort of the premier business
      schools of the country. These women have clearly matched whatever criteria
      the schools can throw at them with an equal degree of rigour and ease as the
      men they work with at the school, and later in their careers. The principle
      of equality that is established at the time of entry is carried through for
      ever. Any dilution of this can only dilute the credibility of the women it
      seeks to support. Every woman who gets through to these institutes will be
      suspected of having been offered concessions and thus be deemed inferior at
      the tables she seeks to lead. This is completely regressive and, worse,

      In a patriarchal and misogynistic society like India where parents dominate
      decision making, it is natural to divert women away from careers that will
      demand full attention, a lot of travel and almost no provisions for any path
      but the steeply vertical. Women are advised to opt for careers that will
      support their primary caregiver role and their lifestyle. The burdens of
      high-flying careers of women are often too much for the "cared" to bear. If
      this is what softening the entrance criteria is seeking to address, then it
      is nowhere close.

      Even women who have entered the hallowed portals have made alternative
      choices along the way. A look at the composition of boards of large
      companies across the country would reveal that the pyramid for women looks
      steeper than the one for men. Many women do leave at child bearing age,
      refusing to deal with the pressures of a dual career-there simply doesn't
      appear to be an alternate model that will enable her to "have it all", to
      continue to contribute as her talent and efforts warrant.

      The premier business schools are the pipeline into the corporate leadership
      funnel. They cannot be expected to resolve the challenges of industrial age
      assembly line organization design by the act of modifying their entry
      criteria. The real problem does not lie in the notion that women are not
      smart enough to "crack the CAT (common admission test)" and qualify for
      these institutes. The real problem is that the career paths ahead are purely
      linear and do not serve the needs of the talent pool. Women do not only
      leave their jobs to have children. Many leave to have more meaningful
      careers, at the pace they like, that are managed in ways that are more
      sustainable, and not necessarily geared towards mere profit or efficiency.
      The behaviours and structures of current organizations come from an age
      where being more like a man was the key to success for women-and many women
      reject that notion. Indian women leaders are role models here although there
      are not enough of them in the top echelons.

      To encourage more women to apply and join, business schools have to find
      incentives such as fee waivers and scholarships. They have to scout for
      talent that can come to the schools and nurture them to apply via student
      conferences. To compromise on merit is to not only play with the
      "smartwoman" brand but also to dilute the brand of the school itself.

      Meeta Sengupta is an independent consultant in education strategy.
      Comments are welcome at theirview@...
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