Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bombay Sapphire

Early this week, I attended an event that has had me glowing for the past few days! It was more than likely the most inspiring and interesting speaker panel I've ever attended. This panel was called "Women & Global Leadership" and was held at the Yale Club in NYC. The event was organized by the CII as part of the Incredible India at 60 celebration that's ongoing in NYC (FYI - 2007 marks the 60th anniversary of India's Independence).

The panel consisted of 4 incredible Indian women who have quickly become role models and inspirations for many young women around the world:

Indra Nooyi - CEO & Chairman, PepsiCo

Naina Lal Kidwai - CEO, HSBC India; First Indian Woman to graduate from HBS

Rohini Nilekani - Journalist, Novelist, Human Rights Activist

Shabana Azmi - Actress, Activist

Each of these women has accomplished so much in their lives despite all the challenges they faced as females growing up in India during the tumultuous post-independence era. There were many insightful questions asked and even more insightful answers given by each of the rockstars. I could never do any of them justice by simply paraphrasing in transcript-style in my blog – you really had to be there to fully experience their spirit.

Nevertheless, I will do my best to summarize some of the highlights…
Positive Facts about India
- There are 1.4M women in political power in India today
- The gap between boys and girls in school in practically closed
- 80% of men in India say that they would like their spouse to be a working woman (unfortunately, this number drops to 60% when including married men and drops even further to 35% when including small villages)

Facts that Still Need Some Work
- The number of women who die from pregnancy-related deaths in India in ONE DAY is the same as the number of people who die in airplane crashes in the US in ONE YEAR
- Although more and more women in India are joining the workforce and gaining independence, they still have the burdens of the household chores upon them – none are shared with husbands thus putting more pressure on women of being the homemakers as well as the breadwinners.

Final Question: “What has been your greatest challenge in getting to where you are today?”
- Indra Nooyi – Being a “trailblazer” and role model has it’s challenges and added burdens. People expect more of you and there are only 24 hours in a day thus you have to be even more careful with “crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s”
- Naina Lal Kidwai – As an Indian woman, you tend to place a glass ceiling on how far you can go and it’s challenging to push that glass ceiling further and further as you progress
- Rohini Nilekani – When you have big goals such as sending every child to school and bringing safe drinking water to all Indian villages, it keeps you going but you also lose control of your own time and need to manage that carefully
- Shabana Azmi – Need to remember that it’s not about only empowering women, but also about finding the right balance of power between men and women for each has their strengths

While I have always been a great admirer of Indra Nooyi, this event introduced me to 3 other similarly great women. These women, as well as the the many others who have defied all rules and stereotypes, should be celebrated for providing guidance to women like me - women who hope to someday be in that spotlight and experience the flip side of admiration.

Thanks, ladies…you’re truly amazing! :)


Nate said...

Wow - sounds like a great experience. I wish I could have been there. Great post, thanks for the recap.

Nate said...

Seems like you enjoying watching TV about where you live in Manhattan!!! :)