Women were considered too weak to do anything beyond household chores and raising kids. More so in India where the education levels of people is pretty low and the whiff of modern feminism hasn’t spread in the populace. Women were not even given a share of property, let alone govern them as they were considered poor in managing people and finances. Many of instances of women rising above these limitations were possible by being part of powerful families or being lone inheritors.

It takes real strength and perseverance to be able to beat the insurmountable odds, push the limits and get into leadership roles in such a male dominated society. I wanted to recount instances of such rarity of few of those who rose above the rest and held a beacon of possibilities.

An Entrepreneur

She graduated in 1973, entered into field of brewing for which she did a course in Australia, the only woman in the entire class. Having topped the class, when she tried to get a job she was rejected as brewing was considered a man’s job.

Chance meeting, a business proposal and grit and determination led her to establish a Bio Pharmaceutical industry, today considered the largest in India.


Meet Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who dared to become entrepreneur when getting job for women itself was a great achievement. She continues to be an inspiration for many independent women to take up the mantle of pursuing their dreams of building and owning their business ventures.

Apart from being insanely wealthy, she was named among Time magazine’s top 100 influential persons in the world in 2010 and as of 2014 considered among top 100 powerful persons in the world by Forbes.

A Fighter

Her school taught a subject called “household” instead of science as girls were thought better prepared being groomed into good housewives. Lucky her father thought better of it and allowed her to be taught science by private tution allowing her to prepare for matriculation.

She played tennis, cut her hair short as it became botheration playing tennis and played at national junior level.

In time she prepared for Civils, nailed it and instead of picking a more womanly (sic) option of IAS, IRS or IFS got into IPS, becoming the first women IPS officer in India.


The number of transfers she had, her gumption of taking on the mightiest, showcase her never die fighter attitude and gave us a woman who proved she could do as well, if not better, as men in a role traditionally considered men’s bastion. Who knows, how many more years it would have taken for women to be part of army, airforce and navy in combat roles and not just support roles as doctors, cooks or nurses but for this fighter – Kiran Bedi

A Social Activist

How to stop a government in cohorts with contractors results in deforestation destroying the livelihood of tribes and peasants who live on a balanced eco-structure of forests without harming them.


On march 25 1974, Contractors and lumbermen in trucks reach a forest site armed to chop down trees. Gaura Devi, head of village Mahila Dal confronts the loggers. With talks failed and contractors abused and threatened the women, she had her band of sisters hug the trees, protecting them from being chopped down. This simple act of hugging, called “Chipko” in hindi, became a rally point spreading the word and stirring up discussions amongst civil society which was far cut off from the problems of forest dwellers.

During the time when ecological awareness itself was at its nascent this lady’s grit and leadership brought about a movement which is today considered as “forest satyagraha” and is mentioned in “India today magazine as 100 people who shaped India”.

Salute to the above and other numerous ladies who have shown amazing leadership traits and are truly inspiring for many others to follow.  These women are truly inspirational and all of them delivered a simple message #EveryWomanIsALeader.