Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Number of Indian women executives taking GMAT at all-time high

With Indian and global multinationals wanting more women in their workforce, seasoned women executives appear to be keen to re-skill. According to the latest data from Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which conducts the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), the number of women from India taking the test in the age group of 25-40 years, who are mostly professionals with work experience, have risen to an all-time high with a 14% increase year on year.

The total number of women from India appearing for the GMAT also hit an all-time high in 2014, with a 17% increase in July-June 2014, compared with the same period a year ago. This compares with a 12% increase in the number of GMAT test takers (men and women combined) from TY2013 to TY2014, suggesting that the pace of growth of women test takers from India has surpassed the growth in the total number of Indian test takers (men and women combined). The total number of women also include a 20.2% increase in the number of women in the age group below 25.

GMAC data is presented in testing years. A testing year (TY) runs from July 1 to June 30, mirroring the academic year. "Most large and evolved organisations are taking a much greater interest in furthering the career of women. There is a lot more conviction and seriousness around their careers," says Amitabh Jhingan, partner and education sector leader at consulting firm EY. That is driving this uptick in the number of women professionals wanting to re-skill, he adds.

The top 10 Destinations to which Indian citizens, both men and women, sent their scores in TY 2014 include US (55.4%), India (6.2%), Singapore (6.6%), UK (5.8%), Canada (5.1%), France (4.7%), Spain (1.4%), Australia (1.0%), Germany (0.8%), and Hong Kong (0.7%).

"We wanted more women to come into this. Whoever we talk to - corporate recruiters, business schools - all want more women...We started systematically with candidate outreach in campuses, particularly those that are women only. We talked to them about GMAT as an option to study abroad and in India," says Ashish Bhardwaj, Vice President - Asia Pacific at GMAC. The GMAT exam is valid for admission into masters, MBA and executive MBA in India and abroad. The test scores are valid for five years.

The 14% increase in the number of women test takers in the age group of 25-40 years could also suggest that pressures of marriage and motherhood are no longer forbidding mid-level women professionals from opting for further education.

The increase is a clear pointer that women's aspiration and confidence levels have gone up, which in turn is boosted by a feeling that their aspirations will be met. This also means more women will be hired, says Saundarya Rajesh, founder and head of Avtar Career Creators, a talent strategy consulting firm. "We have seen that this hiring sentiment of organisations has gone up in the past 6-8 months and more importantly, the intent to hire women has gone up... This is also a clear indication that more women are wanting to be hired. That is (seen in) the trend of women returning to the workplace," she adds.

The focus is shifting from technology to behavioural and leadership skills as one grows. "Corporate India has raised the benchmark on their expectations from potential talent available in the market. Also, up-skilling is essential at varied levels of career progression," says Gayathri Ramamurthy, lead - diversity and inclusion at Capgemini India.

Also, there are more women role models, which could be prompting an increasing number of women professionals to re-skill. "There are many more women in the CEO/CXO position than five years ago," says Savita Mahajan, Deputy Dean, ISB, Hyderabad. Besides sectors like banking and finance, which have been seeing women at senior levels for a few years, e-commerce and technology services are also seeing more women, she adds. Another motivator could be the increase in the number of young women getting into start-ups and entrepreneurial situations, says Mahajan.

Moreover, with an increasing number of multinational companies setting up their offices in India and strengthening the support system for women in the form of flexible work policies, work from home, sabbatical and sometimes even corporate sponsorship, there is this growing trend of women professionals wanting to up-skill, said experts. "Gender is very much a part of agenda for the MNCs outside and they are bringing it to India as well," says Mahajan.

Source: The Economic Times, November 11, 2014
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