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Welcome to the Financial Times live web chat with Diana Bilimoria who features in our Ten Questions Q&A.

Diana Bilimoria, a professor of organisational behaviour and the 2011-12 division chair of the gender and diversity in organisations division at Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management in the US, will answer your questions on Thursday, 19th April 2012, between 14.00-15.00 GMT.

Post your questions to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day on this page.


What made you decide to leave India to study in the US and what are your thoughts on business education in India vs the US? I’m thinking of applying to study for an MBA in either India or China..

Diana: I left India in 1984 to study for a PhD in business administration at the University of Michigan. Prior to that I had completed an MMS degree (similar to an MBA) from SP Jain Institute of Management (then under University of Bombay) – this was an excellent programme. The reason I came to the US for the PhD was to gain advanced knowledge in the field of research in organisational behaviour and to prepare for an academic career.

Business education in the US and India are both great opportunities – management education in the US is a bit more established whereas MBA education in Asia (particularly India and China but many other countries as well) is in a huge growth phase. In fact, the global opportunities for MBA education are enormous. As you are choosing where to study for an MBA, look at the opportunities that the school will offer you for gaining skills and experiences, not just knowledge about management.

Your paper published in 2010, Gender in the Management Education Classroom, highlighted some of the particular behaviours of women on an MBA course. It clearly identified that the women students were aligning themselves with the group that held the most power and status in the room; in this case, the male students.

Have your reflections on this experience of majority / minority dynamics changed since the paper was published? If so, how? And what change would you like to see in business schools, so that women are equals on MBA programmes?

Rachel Killian, MBA Marketing & Recruitment Manager

Diana: Hi Rachel, another great question! The composition of management education is certainly changing. More women than ever took the GMAT in 2011 – in the US and internationally. The greatest growth in GMAT takers was in Asia and, most interestingly, in some countries women compose the majority of GMAT participants. So the future of management education will likely see a rise in women students worldwide.

These women students will bring a new energy and a new set of value imperatives to management education – these will require our management programmes to change positively in the direction of preparing leaders who can operate organisations effectively as well as improving business and society economically, socially and environmentally.

Of course these are numbers only, I would like to see a change in the cultures of management and management education as well – where women’s interests and values are given equal predominance in our classrooms to the boardroom. I’ve written about this previously as well – please see my editorial commentary in the Journal of Management Education from the late 1990s.

I would like to also mention that a related area for potential growth is the number of women faculty in business schools worldwide. In the US about 20 per cent of business school tenure-track faculty are women (30 per cent if we include non-tenure track). I am hopeful that as management education continues to globalise, there will be a shift in the culture of the academic community of scholars and educators as well.

What do you think is the best way of increasing the numbers of women in the boardroom?

Diana: This is a socio-cultural issue as well as a business / industry issue. There are a number of ways of increasing women in the boardroom. Some European countries (e.g. Norway) have successfully applied legislative mandates (quotas) and others are in the process of doing so (e.g. Spain, France).

Australia has implemented a process of accountability for diversity – the “if not, why not? policy”. Still other countries such as the UK have shown recent growth in the numbers of women by working the government and CEOs / board chairs to methodically cultivate a boardroom culture of inclusion and to provide information about a broad talent pool available for board seats.

In some countries, a legislative mandate would be extremely difficult, so the approach has to be more of education and information provision. Academic research should make the case for women on boards more clear and CEOs / chairs should be better informed about the strong pipeline of qualified women available to enter into boardroom seats.

You say your plan B is to be an international chef - what is your favourite recipe?

Diana: This is such a wonderfully complex question that I don’t know how to answer it without organising different favourite dishes into categories! I have favourite recipes for a number of different types of foods and I don’t know which ones I should write here to answer your question.

Perhaps instead I should say that I am a big fan of Asian food – from the many different countries and regions! You are now inspiring me to write a book or blog about all my favourite foods and recipes … perhaps some day! Thank you for this inspiration!

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