Women in India are no longer the “nod when spoken to and lower my head shyly” sex any more. Nor are they just going along with the tide – they’re making wonderful things happen for themselves, and for society.
We have women who are extremely successful in politics, business, sports, social work, science and technology, literature, fine arts and what have you. Here’s a look at 10 such queens who currently rule their realms.
Sonia Gandhi, President, Indian National Congress
From being the charming young Italian Sonia Maino to the strong, dynamic President of the Indian National Congress, she has come a long way. And, the charm hasn’t left her. She has shown that her being a woman, and a foreigner at that, will not stop her from contributing immensely to the nation’s development. She has been ranked the 9th most powerful person on the planet by Forbes magazine in 2010.
Indra Nooyi , CEO, PepsiCo
Although she moved to the US at the age of 23, she has proved to the world that an Indian woman can go much beyond “getting married and settling down”. As of 2010, PepsiCo is a 285000 employee strong company, and under her leadership as the CEO, it is a $57 billion company. Faced with new challenges every day, she continues to combine “Performance with Purpose” to make PepsiCo a world leader.
Chanda Kochhar, CEO and MD, ICICI Bank
She made heads turn when she was named the first woman boss of the banking major ICICI Bank in 2009. She started her career as a Management Trainee in ICICI in 1984, and was made responsible for Retail Banking in 2000. Now, under her leadership Retail Banking has become something of a phenomenon at ICICI Bank. She was awarded the “Retail Banker of the Year” (Asia Pacfic) award in 2004 by Asia Banker, and continues to figure in Fortune’s list of “Most Powerful Women in Business” since 2005.
Barkha Dutt, Group Editor, English News, NDTV
You can love her or hate her, but you can’t ignore her. She revolutionalized journalism for today’s generation. Her reporting of the Kargil conflict made her one of the most admired journalists in the country. She represents the new breed of Indian women journalists who are fearless and dynamic.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman and MD, Biocon Limited
When her father refused to pay capitation fees for a Medical college seat, so that she could understand meritocracy, Kiran listened to the “little drummer” inside and knew she had to rise and do something big. After a tryst with brewing, Biocon was founded in her garage with a capital of Rs.10000. Now, the biotechnology company is a pioneer in the bio-pharmaceutical space. In a conversation with Subroto Bagchi, Co Founder of MindTree, she says “Do not make judgment on things, people, and issues with half information.”
Sudha Murthy, Social worker and Writer
She wrote a letter to JRD Tata complaining about gender bias in Telco (TATA Motors). Her savings of Rs.10000 helped start Infosys. Now, a strong force in Corporate Social Responsibility through the Infosys Foundation, she believes in making use of what she is blessed with for the benefit of others. Since its inception in 1996, the Infosys Foundation has successfully contributed to the areas of healthcare, Rural development and social rehabilitation, Learning and education and Art and culture.
Nirupama Rao, Civil servant, Indian Foreign Services, Foreign Secretary
She is only the second woman to be the Foreign Secretary, and now she is all set to be the next ambassador to the United States. In a society where women hesitated before entering the civil services, she has been exemplary in the work she has done as ambassador to various countries, and more recently in evacuation of Indians during the Libyan crisis.
J Jayalalitha, Chief Minister, Tamilnadu
From the young movie star to the calm and strong politician that she is today, this woman is proof to the fact that women in India are achievers par excellence. Her involvement in politics started when M.G Ramachandran was the Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, and she has been elected Chief Minister thrice since. She has been conferred with several honours including honorary doctorates by a few universities.
Preetha Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai
She believes that power enables you to make a difference in people’s lives and this is exactly what she has done. Under her able leadership, Apollo Hospital has become a major Oncology referral centre, and she believes that “Being the largest is not about the number of beds or the number of people we treat but about delivering cutting-edge quality in each case handled and excelling at that.”
Zia Mody, AZB & Partners
In a conventionally male dominated legal industry, Mody is a stellar example of a woman who has broken the barrier and been immensely successful. She was awarded the “Businesswoman of the Year” award by Economic Times in 2010, and is trail blazer for women who want to make it big in the legal field.