Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Why more women in India give GMAT a skip

Too few women are applying for the GMAT examination in India for pursuing courses like masters in finance, accountancy or an MBA, according to data shared exclusively with ET by Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), administrator of the GMAT test. The number of GMAT women test takers in India has risen by a mere 2% since 2009. 

In 2009, 76% male Indian citizens applied for the test compared with 24% women. In 2013, the figures stood at 74% males versus 26% women test takers. In contrast, more women apply for the GMAT exam in China than men. Around 64% Chinese women citizens applied for the GMAT exam in 2013, compared to 36% males, according to GMAC.

Rohin Kapoor, Senior Manager, Education Practice at Deloitte, feels the skewed figures could be attributed to low female literacy rates, and low gross enrolment ratio for women in higher education. “As opposed to males, gross enrolment ratios for women in higher education are very low in India, and women pursuing higher education usually prefer streams like humanities and social sciences. China’s single child policy, which can enable higher literacy and gross enrolment ratios for women, also tilts the scales in its favour,” he says.

Around 71% Chinese women sent their scores to US schools in 2013 compared with 51% in India. India was the second most popular destination for schools for Indian women at 18% compared to Hong Kong at 10% for Chinese women.

“Our biggest growth story in recent years has been young women in China, who are applying for GMAT to pursue courses in masters of accountancy, masters of finance in schools in Europe and the US. This could be attributed to reasons like China’s single child policy and the lure to do a masters course among women there, but it seems that a lot of women here are missing out onan opportunity that is demonstrated to be a good opportunity,” says Dr Lawrence M Rudner, VP, research and development, and chief psychometrician, GMAC.

Rudner feels the lure for an MBA is also partly to blame for skewed statistics in favour of Chinese women. “In India, they do not realise that it can be a test for pursuing other masters programmes, besides an MBA,” he adds. Professor Sankarshan Basu, chairperson, career development services, IIM-Bangalore, feels that China’s single child policy has been the most significant enabler for aiding financial security of women graduates there. “Thanks to the single child policy, women could end up being the sole inheritors of wealth in China and may find it easier to fund their post graduate programmes. GMAT is an exam undertaken by professionals with some years of work experience, and the societal pressures of marriage, motherhood that come for mid-level women professionals may forbid them from applying in India,” he points out.

Professor Basu also feels that lesser women opt to pursue professional courses in India, with the orientation being skewed in favour of courses like humanities and science. The average age for females was around 25 for Indian citizens against about 22 in China. A critical factor cited for younger GMAT test takers in China was their financial ability to pay for such costs. Major funding in China came from contributions from parents and grandparents. Chinese women younger than 24 expected to finance more than half of their education with help from their parents compared to Indian women who expected their parents to fund 29% of the education. Indian women, on the other hand, expected to finance a major share of their education through loans, grants, fellowships, and scholarships.

Some 61% Chinese women felt applying for GMAT would increase job opportunities compared with 49% in India. However, Indian women rated the exam and masters courses highly for a sense of personal satisfaction and achievement at 55% compared to 43% in China. 59% Indian women also considered it to be a platform for developing their leadershipand managerial skills compared to 43% and 45% respectively for women in China. VK Menon, director for admissions, financial aid and careers at ISB, says the Indian environment for entrance exams is different from China. “India has developed its own environment for exams which has numerous tests for selection across diverse streams. Earlier, MBA was straight jacketed, but with institutions being open to other streams apart from engineering, there is a growing demand from corporates for women MBAs,” he says.

Source: The Economic Times, April 8, 2014

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