India is a land of thousands of gods and goddesses. The Hinduism concept of Tridevi or ‘three goddesses’ revolves around Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga. These goddesses are worshipped throughout the year by Hindus, for prosperity, health, wealth and knowledge. This signifies the importance of women in the Indian culture and society. In the plethora of temples dotting the Indian landscape, you will find female deities placed shoulder to shoulder with male god idols, and sometimes singularly too. For a country where religion is so deeply entrenched and pervasive, treating women with equality, dignity and respect should come naturally.
Owing to a long existing patriarchy system, illiteracy, poverty and morphed religions customs, the societal landscape of India is not what it should be. Gender bias, domestic violence, sexual crimes and discrimination in the home and workplace are issues women have to face if not all the time, but some times. Things are gradually taking a turn for the better now, owing to education.
The Winds of Change
A revolution for equality has started. Indian companies during 2012 went all out to woo women for top management roles. Consequently, the share of women in senior management roles increased from 9% in 2011 to 14% in 2012, according to the findings of a study commissioned to global recruitment firm, Randstad. Let’s talk about some inspiring and influential Indian women who have made a mark in their own worlds.
Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi – Chairperson and CEO, PepsiCo.
Indra Nooyi is an Indo-American business executive who currently heads PepsiCo. as its chairperson and CEO. She was born and raised in Madras (Chennai) in a conservative family, but was always pushed to do well and be someone by her mother, whom she regards as a ‘force of nature’. After completing her post graduation in India, Indra commenced her career in Johnson & Johnson. She entered Yale School of Management and studied Public and Private Management. After corporate strategy stints in BSG, Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri, Indra joined PepsiCo in 1994. Forbes named her the third most powerful woman in 2008 and Fortune ranked her the most powerful woman in business in 2009 and 2010. She considers women to be the force that runs the world and has two daughters herself.
Chanda Kochhar – MD and CEO, ICICI Bank
Chanda Kochhar was born and raised in the state of Rajasthan. She studied in Jaipur and Mumbai and currently lives in Mumbai. Chanda joined ICICI in 1984 and through successive promotions became the CEO and MD of the bank in May 2009. ICICI Bank today is India’s largest private bank and overall the second largest bank in the country.
Chanda Kochhar finds the trend of more women appearing for CAT and business school exams encouraging. She believes that this increase is a result of companies becoming gender neutral and realizing the benefit of diversity. At the same time, she believes that women are taking charge of their careers now and displaying more confidence.
Sania Mirza – Highest Ranked Tennis Player in India from 2003-2013
Sania Mirza was born in Mumbai and grew up in Hyderabad. She is the highest ever ranked Indian female tennis player, with a career high ranking of 27 in singles and 7 in doubles. She was named one of the ’50 heroes of Asia’ by Time Magazine in October 2005. She has spoken on topics such as safe sex and endorses women’s rights.
Arundhati Roy – Man Booker Prize Winning Novelist, Activist
Arundhati Roy was born in the north eastern state of Meghalaya in India to a tea planter father and women’s right activist mother. She studied in South India and Delhi, and currently lives in New Delhi. Arundhati is best known for her novel The God of Small Things, which was released in 1997 and won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction. She is well known for her advocacy of human and environment rights. For her work in social campaigns and advocacy of non-violence, she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May 2004.
Vandana Shiva – Environmental Activist, Author
Vandana was born in the simple valley of Dehradun, Uttarakhand to environmentalist parents. She studied in Uttarakhand, Bangalore and Canada and specialized in science, technology, and environmental policy. Dr. Vandana Shiva has been fighting for changes against genetic engineering, and promotes organic farming, fair trade and eco feminism. She has been invited by the Prime Minister of Bhutan to advise the government on how to become the first fully organic country. Vandana was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2010.