More young women than ever before are aspiring for MBAs.This year, there are 45 odd girls at IIM Ahmedabad - a record number.
Of course, that's partly because the batch size has been steadily increased.As a proportion of the batch the figure is fairly constant.
But, the question is, will this mean a surge in the number of women in middle to senior management positions 10-15 years from now?
I'm not so sure. In the initial 5-8 years years, yes. Young women will give the guys a run fortheir money. But once they get into motherhood mode the age old dilemmas kick in.
This is a subject I've written about in a cover story for Businessworld magazine (issue dated April 4, 2005). In a piece titled 'Price and Prejudice' I note
Think ‘female managers’ and enough Big Names readily roll off the tongue to make a convincing case for the rise and rise of women in the workplace: the ICICI women, Naina Lal Kidwai, Vinita Bali, Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw... .
No doubt, that gutsy generation has paved the way. It’s hard to believe that when Naina Lal applied to PriceWaterhouseCoopers in 1977 for a chartered accountant’s post, the company had to think long and hard before hiring her. Because prior to that they had never taken a woman on board!
Three decades later, the first-woman-to-do-the things-women-never-did bit is definitely over and done with. No job — at the entry level, at least — is seen as inherently unsuitable for women.
And yet, these few well-known faces are but the tip of the iceberg. The huge, invisible mass of that iceberg consists of the thousands of extremely capable women who will never make it to CEO or senior management levels. And it’s not just about the ‘glass ceiling’, competence or leadership style.
The real reason why women ‘fail’ to get ahead goes beyond that. Women could be as smart (or smarter) than their male counterparts, but for the most part they cannot — and will not — put up with the obscenely long hours, frequent travel or sudden relocation readily embraced by those seriously attempting to scale the corporate summit.
Tracking the careers of a group of UC Berkeley MBAs, Stanford Business School professor Charles O’Reilly said:“What makes a difference at the top level is effort; ability has been equilibrated.”
In an interview to Fast Company magazine, O’Reilly elaborated: “Today’s women are equal to their male counterparts in education, experience and skill. But when it is a painful choice between the client crisis and the birthday party, the long road trip and the middle schooler who needs attention, the employee most likely to put company over family is the traditional, work-oriented male.”
Ask B-school graduates who have crossed the five-years-since-we-left-campus-mark, and the number of female batch mates zealously pursuing careers starts declining rapidly. Which is understandable, because these are child-bearing years. But for many of these women, a shift into lower gear becomes a conscious, long-term choice.
Access the rest of the article at www.businessworldindia.com if you like. There are two more articls in the issue by me "Mission Possible" and "How Working Couples Cope".
Registration is required. I know, that's a pain, but since you aren't spending 10 bucks on the magazine don't crib!
What, me worry?
Of course, one may argue, the 'new generation' of women will be different. But the biological reality is, women do -eventually - want to be mothers. Although some - what are called 'career primaries' - are opting not to.
The social reality is, men have made the rules in the workplace. And women, until they can alter those rules, have to live by the existing ones to succeed.
A price not all are willing to pay!