One of the brightest and most promising developments for India post independence has been the expanding influence of women in the areas of politics, public participation, entertainment, sports, business and science and technology. No field has remained untouched from the aura of the Indian woman, who has been portrayed as epitome of strength and poise in the ancient Indian scriptures. However past few centuries witnessed banishing of women to the four walls of the house and assignment of a restricted social role to them. Post- independence, there have been many path breaker women, who not only equaled men in terms of power and might, success stories have also inspired hundreds of others with their success stories. In recent years, most laurels to India have been fetched by women whether it is sports where Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom , Sania Mirza and Deepika Kumariemerged as Indian superstars or politics where women account for being chief ministers of four states, speaker of Lok Sabha, the leader of ruling party and the leader of Opposition party. In entertainment, showcasing of extraordinary talent by Indian women filmmakers and actresses has been subject of amazement to the world, whereas young women CEOs and entrepreneurs have been proofs of India shining. Some of the most powerful women of India in the year 2013 have been listed below:
10. Meira Kumar:
The first woman to hold the prestigious post of Lok Sabha speaker, a lawyer by profession, serving her fifth term as MP, is Meira kumar. Meira Kumar is the daughter of prominent Dalit politician Jagjeevan Ram and made her way to politics by defeating the mighty Ram Vilas Paswan and Mayawati. Before becoming a politician, she served as an IFS officer and was a diplomat to many countries. Born in one of the lowest classes, Meira Kumar has struggled relentlessly to bring about social equity, empowerment of lower castes and enforcement of human rights. Another accomplishment of hers has been discharge of duties as a cabinet minister for social justice and empowerment. As a person, Meira Kumar has always stood calm and dignified, supporting the right causes and signifying unopposed emergence of woman power. She is also a rifle shooter and author, her life has motivated girls all over India.
9. Sushma Swaraj:
A woman who possesses unlimited amounts of grit and determination, a great orator and powerful leader, Sushma Swaraj is a senior BJP leader and has endless distinctions to her name. She has been elected for six times as a Member of Parliament and currently holds the position of Leader of Opposition in the Parliament. She has also been elected as MLA thrice and has also served as the Chief Minister of Delhi in 1998. She became the youngest cabinet minister at the age of 25 and has been the first woman spokesman of a national level party. She was the one to commence live telecast of Lok Sabha debates when she served as Information and Broadcasting minister. Sushma Swaraj, her irrepressible qualities and her love for people of all sections wins her popular support every time and makes her one of the most powerful women of India.
Jayalalitha is not just the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the general secretary of the AIADMK, but a symbol of woman power in South India. She started her career as an actress ( as persuaded by her actress mother) of Tamil and Telugu films and achieved much popularity and recognition. But politics was just the right field which she entered by joining AIADMK in 1982. Her enthralling speeches, her command over English, her determination and willingness to serve the people made her the favorite of not only lacs of locals of Tamil Nadu but of her fellow party members too. She rose to the highest position after Ramachandran’s death and later became the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. Since then she has worked relentlessly for women empowerment and welfare of masses of Tamil Nadu. Her strong decision making has made her a leader with absolute power and a role model to people not just in Tamil Nadu but over the entire country.
7. Padmashree Warrior:
Padmashree Warrior can be rightly called the “Technology woman of India”, in reference to her commendable work as the CTO (Chief Tehnical Officer) of Motorala Inc previously, and presently as the CTSO (Chief Technical & Strategy Officer) at Cisco Systems. While serving as the CTO, Motorola was awarded the National Medal for Technology (2004) by the then US president George Bush. In the recent times, Padmashree has already led Cisco through 15 acquisitions with her innovative and unmatched business skills. Padmashree spent her early days in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh and completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from IIT-D and Cornell University respectively. She is the perfect woman to look up to for girls who see their futures in the Technology sector. With more than 1.4 million followers on twitter, Padmashree has a list of prestigious awards and tiles in her kitty, the most important ones being U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence Award and YWCA Award for Outstanding Achievement.
6. Sheila Dixit:
Sheila Dikshit rules the hearts of the educated middle class of the urban Capital of India. Being one of the most powerful CMs of India, she is the only state leader who has been able enough to take her party, the Indian National Congress to wins in three consecutive terms. Graduated with a Masters in Arts degree in History, she was married into a well established political family. She is known for her developmental projects in Delhi and her unopposed influence in the capital region. Sheila Dixit has been a representative to UN Commission on status of women, from India and has been instrumental in setting up hostels, night shelters and helpline numbers for women.
5. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw:
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is the leading woman entrepreneur of India and recently she became the richest woman of India. She has shown talents that have struck the world in awe, by leading one of the world’s top company in the world of Biotech and Pharmacy which once started in the garage of her rented house. She is the Managing Director and Chairman of Bangalore based biotech company Biocon Ltd which has been awarded over the years for its outstanding design, environmental management and innovations. She herself has been a recipient of countless prestigious awards like Padma Bhushan, Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and also the Padma Shree.
4. Mamata Banerjee:
Mamata Banerjee, the current chief minister of West Bengal as well as founder and chairperson of All India Trinamool Congress Party has been an early achiever. At an early age, she became the general secretary of state Mahila Congress, general secretary of Indian Youth Congress and one of the youngest ever parliamentarians of India. This woman is a storehouse of power with the most serene outlook and is regarded as the lady of her words. Her influence spreads over the whole of Bengal and beyond, and her journey accounts for years of street struggle and a gradual rise to power. She has also served as the first and only woman Railways Minister at the centre. She has been listed among ‘100 most Influencing persons in the world’ by Time magazine. Her works and policies have been dedicated for the poor Indians and this fact often makes ‘didi’ (as she is lovingly called by her supporters) the mass favorite.
3. Chanda Kochhar:
Chanda Kochhar, who holds the position of CEO at the country’s largest private sector bank ICICI Pvt Ltd, is undoubtedly among the top 3 most powerful and influential women of India. She is admired worldwide for her visionary leadership and her role in taking ICICI to greater heights by her innovations in retail business and expansion of distribution. She also forms an important part of the PM’s Council for trade and industry. She has shown her exceptional leadership throughout the active times of ICICI’s international banking ventures and her commendable work gained utmost importance when she was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2011. She has featured in the top 3 of Power List 2013 by India Today and has been declared the most powerful Indian woman in business by Fortune India.
2. Indra Nooyi :
Consistently ranked among the top 10 most powerful women by Forbes over the years, Indra Nooyi is the CEO of the second largest beverage company of the world, PepsiCo. Indra Nooyi has played vital roles in her company regarding purchase of Tropicana, merger of Quaker Oats, merger with Pepsico’s cola bottlers and bringing in of Gatorade. Having completed her MBA from IIM-Calcutta and Masters in Private and Public Management from Yale, she initially worked as Senior Vice President of Strategy and Strategic Marketing for Asea Brown Boveri and product manager at Johnson & Johnson. As a CEO she has restructured PepsiCo, administered its Performance with Purpose strategy and has been instrumental in increasing PepsiCo’s annual revenues by several billion dollars. She is a great professional with enrapturing set of skills which make each Indian proud.
1. Sonia Gandhi:
Sonia Gandhi is not just the most powerful woman, but the most powerful Indian of this era, who practically rules India. Originally Sonia Maino hailed from Italy, married India’s Rajiv Gandhi, adopted Indian citizenship and later became the lady with the ultimate power – Madam Sonia Gandhi. After her husband’s death, she took over the responsibility of Indian National Congress, worked with passion and sheer zeal to restructure the INC. Her greatest virtues since then have been her dedication, wisdom, farsightedness and decisiveness, things which have now earned her the most powerful Indian title. Apart from being a great politician, she proved to be a caring mother and a selfless party worker when she refused to be the Prime Minister of India. Her nationwide campaigns, her ‘ordinary man’ slogans and her works for the poor have assured the UPA chairperson popular support for so many times. She has been the prime symbol of rising woman power in India and has been accepted among the top 5 most powerful women of recent times worldwide.