Women clearly outnumbered men in the audience at Business Today's ninth 'Most Powerful Women (MPW) in Indian Business' awards on Thursday in Mumbai and fittingly so since it was their evening right through. No MPW event is the same as the previous year's and this year was no different. The purpose this time was not just to honour the high-flying women of the corporate world, but also to pick their much-valued brains. The first panel discussion, moderated by Business Today's Editor Chaitanya Kalbag, saw Hindustan Unilever's Leena Nair, JP Morgan Chase's Kalpana Morparia and Preetha Reddy of Apollo Hospitals debate why we need more women in the boardroom. They all agreed that the glass ceiling is now a thing of the past. All the same Nair expressed frustration about the tendency to do studies and surveys to say there should be more women in the workplace. "There are as many capable women as men," she said. Full coverage
As much as the audience was inspired, it was now time for a reality check and to understand why there is still a long way to go for the Indian woman. Farida Lambay, Co-founder of Pratham, a Mumbai-based NGO which works on girls' education, reminded everyone in the room of the woes plaguing women, right from their poor literacy rate to the poor treatment they receive in a patriarchal set-up in most parts of the country. With the stock-taking of the state of women in the country done, it was now the turn of the next generation of women leaders to enthral the crowd on whether today's young woman is prepared for a bigger role in business. Devita Saraf of Vu Technologies, Madison World's Lara Balsara and Wockhardt Hospitals' Zahabiya Khorakiwala also dwelt on the pros and cons of a woman running her family business.
The discussions led to the most important part of the evening when the 25 Most Powerful Women were honoured by the chief guest of the day, Chua Sock Koong, Group Chief Executive Officer of SingTel, Asia's biggest communications group, and Aroon Purie, Editor-in-chief of Business Today.
"It is a listing we are immensely proud of, especially because we were the first to create such a platform way back in 2003," noted Purie. In her keynote address, Chua talked of how a support system is critical for a working women. "When my kids were young, I was shameless to ask friends and family for help." After her speech, the award ceremony was kicked off with the MPW 'Hall of Fame' which is for leaders who have made it to the MPW list seven times, which was then followed by the honouring of the MPW, some of whom like Leena Nair and Aruna Jayanthi, CEO, Capgemini, had turned up with their dear ones. After all, the evening was much about the MPW's families as about themselves.