The Value of an MBA to Indian Women’s Careers

Diversity

Your dreams are important. And if your aspirations include career success in business—whether it be within a large, multinational organization or your own entrepreneurial venture—the skills, connections, and ways of thinking cultivated in an MBA program can be a critical step to getting you there.

 “Large chunks of India still remain conservative and traditional, and your families, like it or not, do have expectations of you,” opened up Vibha Kagzi, founder and chief education officer of ReachIvy during a recent panel of Indian women MBAs convened by the GMAT team.

 “At 19, 20, 25, I saw myself as an entrepreneur sitting in this corner office. This was my vision, and to realize that vision I knew I needed to get the MBA, I needed to upskill, I needed the credibility that the Harvard degree gives me… it’s allowed me to establish an identity of myself as an individual outside of my family’s expectations for me.”

Read on for more perspectives from successful Indian businesswomen, including executives from Google and IBM, on what an MBA has meant for their careers and what it can do for graduates in today’s competitive hiring landscape.

Is an MBA worth it for Indian women?

What can make an MBA such an important difference maker in the careers of Indian women?

According to a recent survey of corporate recruiters, recruiters most commonly identified interpersonal skills as important to their current job openings, which include communication and soft skills like active listening, social perceptiveness, coordination, and, persuasion and negotiation.

Particularly as the business world becomes increasingly digitally focused, the importance of human connection and understanding for managers will increase significantly. Overall, 57 percent of recruiters say interpersonal skills will grow in demand over the next five years. 

“It’s the soft skills that come through an MBA, as opposed to just the actual marketing, or finance or whatever course you may have studied,” says says Suchi Sethi, Head of Talent Acquisition, Google Cloud, JAPAC.

“It’s that skillset that recruiters look for…it’s the soft skills that you know someone has developed over that one or two-year journey. The ability to face challenges, the ability to work with a really diverse group of people… bringing in that diversity of thought.”

 

“The ability to jump into any new situation and take that on and be willing to take challenges, the resilience that comes with an MBA… I think that’s the kind of skillset that everyone is continuing to look for.”

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As for MBA hiring in the current environment, Suchi Sethi said: “What we’re seeing is more optimism coming back as the economy picks up across markets and hiring will increase with it.”

What can an MBA do for Indian women’s careers?

Beyond the specific skills Indian women develop in MBA programs, there’s a broader shift that takes place in how they learn to conceptualize issues and attack problems that’s a trademark of MBA programs.

“There is a certain discipline, a certain way of reasoning, there is a way of thinking, there is a way of solving a problem that gets inculcated into you when you do your MBA, and I think that’s what really matters,” says Deepali Naair, CMO, IBM India & South Asia.

“I think that love of learning, the pursuit of new concepts to learn, all that becomes very, very important in your later years,” she continued. “One of the most important qualities I look for when I’m hiring is if the person is a lifelong learner… That’s when they will be ready for the future, a future that is unknown. And the pandemic has shown us so much more of that than anything else.” 

 

“When I’m looking at candidates, relevant experience matters, but a relevant degree also matters,” she said, discussing making hiring decisions. “And let’s say if all things being equal one candidate is an MBA and the other is not, then I would prefer the candidate with an MBA.”

“Having said that, I have also seen in the CVs that candidates with MBAs have progressed faster. They’ve reached a level a little faster than the ones who did have [an MBA].”

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“Going back to my own example, I was an English literature and a math student. That kind of a graduation didn’t really prepare me for a professional career in any case, but an MBA is what did that for me. An MBA is what gave me the platform to have a professional career.”

“It gives you a launching platform, and it gives you a certain way of thinking, which is very important.”  

Insights for fast tracking your career as an Indian woman

And what pieces of career advice do these impressive female executives have to offer the next generation of Indian women leaders?

“What I would tell my younger self is to have a very, very lofty vision for yourself,” says IBM’s Deepali Naair, CMO of India and South Asia. “When you have smaller goals, you achieve them and then after that you don’t know what to do.”

She added: “If you’re too comfortable wherever you are in life, you’ve stopped growing…You need to be uncomfortable, whether its getting into education, or taking a job in a different place, whatever the risk is your taking, being uncomfortable is very important.”

 

“Really try to understand who you are and who you want to be, and often that means not being a lot of other things…Over the past few years, I’ve learned more by clearing the noise around me and what other people want from me…at this point I’m really just doing what I want, within limits.” says Suchi Sethi, Head of Talent Acquisition, Google Cloud, JAPAC.

She added: “And also just working hard. There is really no magic trick around working hard. Work smart, but you’ve also got to put in time and effort into achieving your dreams…Commit to it, and then put in the work for it.”

How to make a career plan

Our free Career Planning Guide will walk you through key personal and professional questions you need to explore to set the course for the next steps of your career. This career plan template will help you learn about yourself, understand your responsibilities, identify what you want, and bring your career vision into focus.

FREE GUIDE

Changing the management paradigm

Management education enhances the ability to think independently. “Women are born with intrinsic management skills, which they can translate at workplaces after completing their studies. It will be a win-win situation for both women and the businesses,” says Goyal.

Most business houses, IT sector and other corporates are looking for diverse workforces. “This is the best time for women to enter B-schools as the job market is slowly becoming gender neutral. Once the skewed gender in the classroom is addressed it will bring changes in the boardrooms too,” says Sahay.

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