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Women in Leadership Forum India 2011: Day One – A Powerhouse of Energy

Naseba’s 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Forum India 2011 recently concluded in Mumbai. Held on October 13 and 14, 2011 at the JW Marriott, the two day conclave was carved with an objective to inspire the women business leaders of tomorrow. It saw an inspiring gathering of women leaders from across the country.

Shilpa Sachdev reports for on the sessions that took place on Day 1 of the Women in Leadership Forum India 2011.

  • My Career: A Cornerstone Of My Identity

A woman defines life. From her traditional role as a mother and a homemaker to now leading the corporate boardroom, the journey of woman has indeed come a long way.

Themed ‘My Career: A cornerstone of my identity’, the event saw healthy debate and discussion along with a motivating exchange of the success stories of leading women in the country.

Most importantly, it provided an opportunity and a platform for the women leaders to interact and network. Some of the most prominent women in industry were invited to speak at the conference. Each session was encouraging in its own way, adding value to every minute spent.

In the opening address, Sunita R Cherian, VP – Human Resources, Wipro EcoEnergy, shared some valuable nuggets stating that it is important to invest in a career and worthwhile to nurture it. One of the crucial points she emphasised is that women need to make a choice.

In context of her own experience, she shared how she chose to study engineering and take a job with a private sector. Coming from an IT background, she spoke on how women are pushing boundaries even in technical fields, and that it is no more an option between family or work, but it is now about integrating the two in a favourable manner. One must learn to weave a choice around the situation.

“It is a balance, so don’t try to be a superwoman. Invest in that maid/cook/driver that will give you quality time to spend with your family. Though career can be a very rewarding experience, other roles are equally critical, especially never make your family a second priority,” she advised.

At the end of her talk, Sunita shared some wonderful tried and tested home recipes to craft a meaningful career. It starts by choosing the right organisation in line with your values, choosing the right spouse so invest time to know him and his family as you need that support to be successful.

Look for sponsors in your organisation, invest in yourself; read more or take up a hobby, set milestones, stay healthy and groom yourself; develop a view point, she advises. In her words, you are the CEO of your career.

  • Lead by Example

Next in line was an interactive panel discussion throwing light on the key stepping stones for women to become an inspiring leader. The first viewpoint ‘Lead by Example’ was shared by Marsha Gabriel, CEO, The Helping Hand Network, who said that extraordinary things happen by liberating the leader within.

In order to know who has the power, one must identify the function. She elaborated that leadership can be autocratic or transformational. “In an autocratic set up, there is organisation but no organism no flow of life no corporeal structure so the danger is talent flees. Transformational leaders innovate and impact change,” she noted.

  • Mentorship

Presenting her viewpoint on ‘Mentorship’, Kanika Dewan, Group President, Bramco, said that it is a life strategy. Quoting a survey, she shared that 93% of the men get a raise from their mentors as against only 56% of women and hence there are very few women on top, the reason being women don’t blend with other women.

Cross-gender mentorship can prove helpful, she noted, suggesting a 5-point acronym “STRIVE” which stands for Singularity, Tradition, Research, Idealism, Vivacity and Enjoying the process.

  • Emotional Fitness In Women

In the third viewpoint, motivational speaker, Abha Maryada Banerjee, highlighted the need to build ‘Emotional Fitness’ among women. “We have to accept and understand that the wiring is different in women and that they tend to think from an emotional centre and not often a logical centre. However, this is an advantage as emotions are needed in business to build powerful relationships,” she stated.

The panel discussion also saw men presenting their perspective. Sanjay Modi, MD – India/Middle East/Southeast Asia,, said that there is a definite business need to have more women’s participation. Since the majority of the consumer market is made up of women, it only makes sense to let the women decide for women.

Lucius Lobo, VP and Global Head – Security Services, Tech Mahindra Ltd, reiterated the commitment of his company to have more women employees on board stating that it is no more gender, but merit, that drives the decision.

The key challenge the panel highlighted was the lack of enough educated women and how each one of us carries the responsibility to be a role model in ourselves to bring the change. It is also important for the woman to be assertive, vocal and clear and learn to express herself, especially in a workplace.

Speaking on the issue of reservation, the panelists in unison maintained that better policies are required to integrate more women into the mainstream and give them a fuller canvas than just a one third representation, which only makes sense in the national context.

As moderator Uma Nambiar, CEO, Global Hospitals and Health City, observed that it involves imparting them a right to live and right to free education at an earlier stage in life.

  • Breaking the Social Barrier

The next session ‘Breaking the Social Barrier’ looked at the extraordinary journey of a multifaceted versatile woman who became a celebrated leader in a male-dominated society. Ranjana Kumar, retired Vigilance Commissioner of the Central Vigilance Commission, Government of India, left everyone spellbound with her magnetic persona and inspiring narrative of her illustrious banking career.

Ranjana KumarShe transformed three loss making units into profitable ventures and has worked with the best banking institutions in the country. She began with the importance of being a professional at work and importantly of knowing the work you do.

“Do not bring the problems of your workplace home,” she advised. “Luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. Seize the opportunity when it comes. As you go up the corporate ladder, you have to teach and mentor others. Become ‘dependable’ for your organisation – that will be an asset.”

“Stay energetic and flexible. Your own conviction is important. Do not hesitate to take suggestions from your subordinates. When in doubt, delay the decision. When you put people in their strength areas, you don’t need to supervise them. Take manageable risks.”

“The graph of life has its ups and dips; don’t be mentally sick. Maintain a distance from people who make your welfare their worry. You don’t know your own potential.  Become bold and assertive and not aggressive. Be sure of yourself; be firm but polite.”

“Don’t curb your emotions. Learn to delegate work. Put systems in place. When people take decisions there are bound to be mistakes. Don’t have knee jerk reactions or your people will stop making decisions. A peaceful domestic life is the trump card – invest in it,” she continued to thunderous applause.

  • Womenomics

Ranjana’s talk was followed by another panel discussion this time on Womenomics focusing on how women will drive the future of the 21st century and what more needs to be done to leverage the value of women in the workplace.

The question is can women swing between the soft and the tough? Akila Krishnakumar, COO and Country Head, SunGard, presented her viewpoint on higher growth trends. Women are the most underutilised resource. She observed that 52% women drop out after 30 years of age.

“Imagine 50% of men dropping out; that would be a national calamity. We don’t want to be a part of any diversity quota. We need to have mixed teams that will bring complementary skills and talents fostering better decisions. We are not fighting for rights but for earning representation, that is the challenge at organisational level. We need to speak where needed and take the credit,” she recommended.

  • What Women Want

Each woman who wants to make it big must have a ‘dream’ says Harshbeena Sahney Zaveri, MD and President, NRB Bearings Ltd, in context of her viewpoint on “What Women Want”. “Women don’t tend to think big. They must aspire to be in key positions. We should recruit women in non-traditional spots. Apart from competency, choose women who have the spunk and character. Nurture them.”

“Ask the right questions but done ask for directions from people who don’t want to help. Surround yourself with cheery people. Use your sense of humour to get the point across. Have a plan to create the life balance you want,” she advised.

  • Retaining Female Talent In The Organisation

Aditi Chandra, National Head – Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services, gave some solutions on the viewpoint of “Retaining women talent in the organisation”, stating, “We need to have something on lines of a ‘brown bag lunch’ – a networking session where women can sit and talk. We need to understand that women have a different skill gap vis-à-vis a man at the same position. The organisation should have mentors and leadership programs to sensitise the men to women issues.”

Hrashbeen adds, “One may also have a ‘menu card’ system in a flexible domain to allow women to choose their incentives. One must brag about their achievements; people will look upto you. Don’t be invisible.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Sujitha Karnad, Head – Human Resources & Quality, IT Services, Tech Mahindra Ltd, and followed by an interactive role play session for the delegates. The day concluded with WIL Achievements Awards Ceremony conducted in the evening felicitating women achievers in various fields.

  • WIL Achievements Awards Winners

Leading Woman In Business (International) – Kanika Dewan, President, Bramco WLL

Leading Woman In Business (India) – Rekha and Renu Babu, Joint Managing Directors, BCG Health Park Pvt Ltd

Leading Woman in Finance – Ritu Arora, Director – Investment and Procurements, Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Company Ltd

Leading Woman in Media – Kavita Lakhani, President, Linopinion Public Relations – Lowe Lintas India

Leading Woman in Technology – Valerie R Wagoner, Founder and CEO, Zipdial

Leading Woman in Healthcare – Kanchan Naikawadi, Director, Indus Health Plus

Leading Woman in HR – Lekha Parameswaran, Head – Executive Search Division, High Places International

Women Initiative Award – Godfrey Phillips Bravery Women’s Empowerment Initiative

Special Category: Lifetime Leadership Achievement Award – Shahnaz Hussain

© is a media partner for the 2nd Annual Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum India

Women in Leadership (WIL) Series Topics:

The 2nd Annual Women in Leadership (WIL) Forum India is a cutting-edge platform for businesswomen from all backgrounds, industry sectors and countries around the world. Amongst the delegates in attendance will be top Indian and global businesswomen, industry visionaries, leading politicians, knowledge thought leaders and entrepreneurs.

Photo source YouthKiAwaaz

Sunita Narain CSE

The Top 10 Inspiring Women Business Leaders In India

Businesswomen in India have come a long way from the days of garage enterprises and now manage companies with turnovers of thousands of crores. Here are 10 of the most inspiring women in business who embody the spirit of leadership in India.

  • Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

The gutsy Mazumdar-Shaw is one of the most famous and inspiring women entrepreneurs in India. She single-handedly converted her start-up worth Rs.10,000, functioning out of her garage to the Rs.2,100 crore worth Biocon Pvt Ltd. as we know it today. For her contributions to the field of biotechnology, Mazumdar-Shaw is also known as the “Biotech Queen”.

  • Ekta Kapoor

Kapoor is the face of the Indian soap opera and serials industry. Born in an affluent “filmy” family, she suffered from low self-esteem due to obesity.

But with sheer grit and determination, she laid the foundation for Balaji Telefilms and gradually took the Indian households by storm with its cult serials like “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi”, “Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki”, “Kasautii Zindagi Ki” and more.

She has also forayed into film production and is credited with producing successful ventures like “Kya Kool Hain Hum” and the recent, “Love, Sex Aur Dhokha” and “Once Upon a Time in Mumbai”.

  • Sunita Narain

Narain is a political activist as well as an environmentalist, and one of the movers and shakers behind the concept of sustainable development.

She received the prestigious Padma Shri award from the Government of India, in 2005, for the contributions she made in her field. Presently, she is the Director of both, Society for Environmental Communications and Centre for Science and Environment of India.

  • Neelam Dhawan

Dhawan is a successful woman leader in the field of Information Technology in India. As the Managing Director of Microsoft India, she currently leads the sales and marketing operations in the country.  However, her journey to the list of top women entrepreneurs has not been an easy one. She was rejected from FMGC giants like, Asian Paints and Hindustan Lever as they did not want a woman in their marketing division.

  • Naina Lal Kidwai

This Padma Shri winner has put India in the global map of banking by becoming the first woman ever to head a foreign bank on Indian shore. She is the Country Head and Group General Manager of HSBC, India. She is also the first Indian woman to pass out from Harvard Business School (in 1982).

  • Sulajja Firodia Motwani

This spunky woman is the force behind Kinetic Engineering Ltd and Kinetic Motors. A fitness freak who played Badminton at a national level, her name is listed among the top 25 entrepreneurs in India and she is the recipient of Society Young Achiever’s Award for Business in 2002.

  • Dr. Jatinder Kaur Arora

Arora holds a Doctorate degree in Microbiology and is the recipient of National Award for her immense contribution towards the development of women through science and technology. Currently, she is a joint director in the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology.

  • Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi

As the executive officer and chairperson of PepsiCo, she stands tall as the world’s fourth most powerful woman in Forbes’ 2011 list. In 2006 she had achieved the same feat and was also termed as the #1 Most Powerful Woman in Business by Fortune magazine.

Nooyi graduated from Madras Christian College in 1974 and got a Business Diploma from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Later, she went on to do higher studies from the Yale School of Management.

  • Priya Paul

One of the most distinguished woman entrepreneurs in India, Paul heads the Apeejay Park Hotel chain as their Chairperson. This Economics graduate from Wellesley College (USA) started working in the company as Marketing Manager under her father, Mr. Surrendra Paul, before succeeding him in 1990 as the Chairperson, following his death.

  • Ritu Nanda Kapoor

As the daughter of Bollywood legend, Raj Kapoor, her blood ties with the most prominent film family of India have made her one of the most recognizable women entrepreneurs, but there is no denying the hard work she put in to bring up the well-known insurance company, Escolife Pvt. Ltd.

She entered the Guinness Book of World Records by managing to sell 17,000 pension policies in one day. Now, her company boasts of a clientele of over 55,000, and was awarded the titles of “Brand Ambassador” and “Best Insurance Advisor of the Decade”, by Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), India’s largest life insurance company.


Photo source Wikipedia

Top Indian Women Business Leaders: Naina Lal Kidwai

Being declared the third most powerful business woman in the world by the leading global magazine Fortune is no mean feat. If not for Naina Lal Kidwai’s charismatic aura, boundless talent and constant perseverance, this achievement would hardly have been possible.

Naina Lal Kidwai, Indian Woman Business Leader

Naina Lal Kidwai currently working as the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC Bank, India, has given new meaning and horizon to achievement. Standing tall as every modern woman’s inspiration she is worth every word of appreciation coming her way. Here is taking a closer look at this epitome of success.

  • Early Life:

Naina was born in 1957 and has been brought up in Delhi and Mumbai, completing her schooling from Shimla. Her father was the CEO of a top insurance company. After having completed her schooling, she studied Economics from the prestigious Lady Sri Ram College of Delhi University.

Following this she acquired a degree in MBA from Harvard University. She is apparently the first Indian Woman to graduate from The Harvard University. Right from school Naina was a go-getter, topping her classes, excelling in co-curricular and sports, it was the beginning of the making of a legend.

  • Career Milestones:

Naina has worked with top-notch firms like Morgan Stanley and ANZ Grindlays before starting to work with HSBC. Due to her talent of a broker of financial agreements between investors and firms she has financed top IT firms like Infosys, Wipro etc.

She has been a non executive director for Nestle SA, Global Advisor for Harvard Business School etc. She is also a National Advisory Board member of AIESEC a youth driven organization. At HSBC she started as the vice chairman and has steadily reached her current position. She is also said to be the first woman to head the Indian Branch of a foreign Bank.

  • Accolades:

Naina’s biggest award would unquestioningly be her sheer brilliance, rest are only subsidiaries to it. She has been awarded the prestigious Padma Shri award for her contribution to trade and industry in India.

She has been given honorable mentions by leading magazines of the world as one of the most powerful business women in today’s age. She has been awarded with numerous national and international honors for her outstanding work. She is also said to be the highest paid banker in the country.

  • Personal Life:

She is married to Rashid Kidwai, managing director of a non-profit organization. They have two kids together. Renowned writer and director Mira Nair is a dear friend of hers. Issues like women empowerment, livelihood of women in rural areas are extremely close to her heart.

She is a huge nature lover and feels deeply for the environment. Anything from trekking to the Himalayas or just enjoying wildlife is bliss for her. Inside the bubble of her charisma she is a normal woman, taking care of her family, balancing the two ends of life, listening to music and living life on her own accord.

The leader in her was born at a time when women were only lead by the men of this patriarchal society. Being the true leader she is, she has always encouraged and promoted supportive team effort. She along with carving a path for herself left a trail for thousands others. And there she stands today, the formidable figure of glory.


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