For years, every class at the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) was boringly uniform. Students were mostly boys, with only a sprinkling of the other sex. In class, these young men thought similarly, used identical logic and took decisions that were alike, for they were all hardwired to behave in a certain fashion at the engineering campuses they came from.
In a strange correction to break the monotony of these two singularly large constituencies that cornered seats for years at the IIMs, the management schools have decided to award special marks to girls and non-engineering students.
All the six new IIMs and the ones at Lucknow and Kozhikode feel it`s time to rebalance the gender scales in office spaces. So while IIM-Rohtak will give 20 marks to each girl and another 20 to a non-engineer, IIM-Raipur will add 30 marks to the overall scores of each girl-non-engineer. IIM-Lucknow has decided to grant five marks to each girl and two to non-engineers. [Source: this ToI story by Hemali Chhapia]
The bit about non-engineers is interesting, but I'll restrict my observations to the issue of gender disparity in our top institutions:
This is a great move by these eight IIMs, and I can't think of a better application of their autonomy. After articulating the need to promote gender diversity, they have done well to tailor their admissions policy towards that goal. It looks like the older IIMs (and, of course, the IITs) will be flaunting their studly smugness for some more time.
This real, meaningful attempt by (some) IIMs to promote diversity should be contrasted with the recent announcement from the IITs that they have abolished the JEE application fee for women [Update: link, link].
Leaders of our leading institutions keep talking about their desire for greater diversity; but they plead helplessness by pointing to their system of entrance exams -- as if that procedure is so sacrosanct that even thinking about changing it is a crime against the Constitution.
Note also how Hemali Chhapia's ToI article tries so hard to de-legitimize (some) IIMs' steps to ensure a more diverse cohort: the headline talks about "Grace Marks for Girls" and the text talks about "a strange correction" by awarding "special marks." I guess we should be grateful that Chhapia refrained from use of the word 'crutch' ...
It's not funny at all to see some people blame Big Bad Society (and its lousy attitudes) for the under-representation of women in the IITs; they urge parents to shed their gender bias (!) and send their daughters to the best cram schools -- even if it means the said daughters should spend endless weeks and months ruining their adolescence at Kota.
What these guys (and it's almost always guys) are saying, essentially, is this: "Our institutions are perfect, and so are our entrance exams! Now if only the stupid people can be goaded into doing the right things, ..." I think a good response would be this [said in a different context]:
... [A} system that for good outcomes requires that people act in ways people do not do is not a good system — and to blame the people rather than the system is to commit a major intellectual error.
-- Brad DeLong [via Cosma Shalizi]