Innovations That Inspire

Women Leaders of Tomorrow

Recognition Year(s): 2017
School: S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research
Location: India

Innovation Statement

S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research (SPJIMR) launched a pioneering 11-month post-graduate management program that includes personalized mentoring and intensive industry partnerships to prepare talented Indian women, who have taken a mid-career break, to return to leadership positions.

Call to Action

Global Institute’s September 2015 report, The Power of ParityMcKinsey, presented data indicating that closing the global gender gap could deliver 12 trillion to 28 trillion USD of additional GDP in 2025. Forty-eight percent of women in India drop out of white-collar jobs mid-career, compared to the average in all of Asia of just 21 percent.

With this considered, India's current GDP could rise by up to 2 percent if women who leave the workforce—because of the need to give more time to family and because of the patriarchal nature of Indian society—are retained at the workplace. When these women do want to return, they face a tremendous deficit in relevant experience, skills, and trust from employers.

It is well known that organizations with diverse leadership profiles deliver superior business and innovation outcomes. Despite a drive to build gender diversity in leadership in India, the middle management pipeline is weak, leading to a dearth of women leaders at the top. When promising and qualified women want to come back, they face issues of (1) not getting the right platform on account of time away, (2) issues of self-confidence, (3) erosion of relevant networks, and (4) the need to refresh and update knowledge and skills.

To SPJIMR’s knowledge, to date there has not been a concerted effort by a premier business school to address this issue through an integrated program that addresses aspects of knowledge, identity and career, and networks with comprehensive industry participation.


The full-time (11-month) post-graduate management program is designed to equip experienced, returning women professionals by:

  • Developing a personal leadership style that impacts corporate performance       

  • Learning how to navigate the barriers women face at work and in society successfully, for career progression and a sustainable work-life balance in India        

  • Learning to appreciate the different business functions, complexities, and linkages in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world        

  • Specializing in and contemporizing their skills in one area of functionality and its cutting-edge practices

Differentiators include:

  • The full-time post-graduate management program for returning women is the first of its kind in the world.     
  • Each participant has a senior leader (mentor) assigned to her from the industry for the duration of the program.      

  • Hand-picked mentors undergo a workshop to understand gender-specific challenges for women (gender sensitization).         

  • A three-month internship staggered across the course allows experience within multiple contexts.         

  • Emotional intelligence is emphasized as one of the biggest strengths for participants.           

  • The admission process includes counseling to help returning women make the right specialization and career path choices. 

  • The intensity of the course is designed to be very flexible, and is phased to help participants absorb the change without losing the rigor of the program. It starts with an onboarding phase to support returning women participants in their return to full-time commitment.    

  • Content to influence the ecosystem is a value add.


The impact and reception has been far beyond any other programs SPJIMR has launched recently. Immediate measurable items include the following:

  • In total, our social media efforts have reached more 20,000 engagements, and more than 600 women have expressed interest in joining the program.

  • Companies that are struggling to hire and retain a female workforce, especially at the mid-management levels, are very eager to connect with the institute.

  • In less than two months of the launch, the program has six active corporate partners from reputed companies in multiple sectors. A number of other partnerships are in final stages.

  • The program has already resulted in spin-off company programs for women leaders. A co-created program for women leaders at the Mahindra Group has been very well-received, and the institute has demand from multiple other houses.

  • Industry bodies such as Confederation of Indian Industries, FICCI, and others have hailed our program for returning women. The program has also been extensively covered in the media by leading vehicles like The HinduEconomic Times, InsideIIM.COM, MBA Universe, and more.

In looking to the future, SPJIMR expects this program to create many women CEOs for corporate India over the next 10 years. Participants of the program and its results can impact the social fabric and create examples that will inspire others.

SPJIMR will move to holistic corporate partnerships so that this initiative can impact the corporate environment for returning women. This program aims to create new frontiers and become a pioneer. It will also transform the role and perception of business schools in this arena.

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