Society never misses a beat to tell older women that there is only so much they can achieve and should be achieving. But isn’t age just a number? SheThePeople’s 40 Over 40 Awards is trying to remove precisely that barricade. Celebrating women over the age of 40 who have achieved, reinvented themselves, and claimed their space under the spotlight, we are seeking to recognise the talent and spirit that drives so many women forward today.
1. Kreeti Mitra Bhatia, The Special Mom
Founder of The Special Mom, Kreeti Mitra Bhatia formed an online community to help all the women associated with special needs people. The Special Mom works towards the emotional wellbeing and empowerment of such women with a few specially curated programs and social meets. As an “auti-mom,” Bhatia turned her worries into strength and formed an online parent support community to empower special need parents in their journey.
2. Mugdha Pradhan, ThriveTribe Wellness Solutions
Mugdha Pradhan is a Functional Nutritionist, Coach, Healer, and CEO of ThriveFNC. She grew up in a traditional middle-class family, with no emphasis on building a career, only to be married and have kids. By 37 she says she was clinically depressed, obese, diabetic, and financially broke. Over the last four years not only did she heal her own self, she helped over 250 people fix their chronic health issues, reversed diseases, and built a healthcare company that’s slowly becoming a gold standard for how healthcare is delivered to patients.
3. Vandana Saxena, Vandana’s Pen
Vandana Saxena, a soft skills trainer, is associated with Unified Credit Solutions Pvt Ltd., Henry Harvin Education, and is the founder of Vandana’s Pen. She began her professional journey at the age of 21. Soon after she started to work, she says she was forced into marriage. She was expected to strike a work-life balance and had to compromise on her career due to the tiff in the household responsibilities and long working hours. Now, she collaborates as a trainer on various projects that provides specific training for educated people by giving them extra digital skills in content creation, digital marketing, writing, GST, to name a few.
4. Shilpa Kulshrestha, Scintillate
Shilpa Kulshrestha is the Founder of Scintillate, Peak Performance Coach, Keynote Speaker, Influencer, and Best-selling author of the book Play it Full. She believes that we can attain incredible results in all aspects of life, at the same time- achievements, health, and relationships. She works with leaders across 8 countries and has been featured on a number of shows on radio, TV, podcasts, and global magazines.
5. Dr Anita Sengupta, University of Southern California
Dr Anita Sengupta is a world-renowned NASA rocket scientist, girls’ STEM role model, global professional public speaker, skilled aviator, scuba diver, and motorcyclist. Her father, of Bengali origin, was a PhD mechanical engineer who instilled in her the value of education and a passion to achieve great things with ingenuity, in order to make an impact on society and give back to the disadvantaged. Dr Sengupta received her BS, MS, and PhD in Aerospace Engineering in the United States and has had an extraordinary career over the past two decades as a researcher and leader at NASA, Virgin, Boeing, academia, and in the entrepreneurial space.
6. Dr Prerna Kohli, Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Prerna Kohli (M.Phil., Ph.D.) Founder MindTribe.in is a Clinical Psychologist, 4 times gold medalist and the first clinical psychologist to be awarded by the Hon. President of India. Dr. Kohli is a published author, a four-time gold medalist, and an intensive research scholar. She has been an adviser to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and is a member of the Niti Aayog Nutrition Committee. Dr. Kohli works towards helping people to sustain relationships and making their lives more productive, happier, and abounding with inner peace. Dr. Kohli received her education at Welham Girls High School, Dehradun and holds a Ph.D. from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh where she was a four-time Gold Medalist for excellence in academics.
7. Rupamala Singh, Hayde Heritage Academy
Rupamala Singh has been a creative marketing professional with over 25 years of experience, having worked with several media organisations like ABP Group; Hindustan Times and India Today Group. Currently, she is a school owner with a secondary day cum residential school in Kotdwara, Uttarakhand. The school’s name is Hayde Heritage Academy. She has been providing education consulting to various edupreneurs on education management and school management from setting up to consolidation.
8. Manjeet Kripalani, The Gateway House
Manjeet Kripalani is a former business journalist who has a second career in foreign policy, specifically building an independent intellectual institution for a globalising India and for the long term. Gateway House is an independent foreign policy think tank in Mumbai. She leads a team of scholars, between 12 and 22 of them to develop foreign policy research linked to the markets, in thematic areas like security, space, geoeconomics, energy, international investments and finance.
9. Indira Rangarajan, Mirchi
Indira Rangarajan has over 20+ years of experience in the Media, Music, and Content creation space. She pursued undergraduation in Women’s Christian College Chennai, majoring in Biology. If not a National Programming Head, she would have been a dancer/ actor/ poet/ writer. She’s vocal on social media platforms on women’s issues, mental health, and music and music programming as a platform-agnostic entertainment medium in and outside of the workplace. One social cause she is very passionate about is mental-health awareness.
10. Smita Bharti, Sakshi
Smita Bharti’s story began amid mountains and farms, surrounded by stories. Her life changed when she was married at 19. She stayed in that abusive exile, she says, for 12 years with unspoken poetry being her source of sanity. One fine morning she walked out of her marriage holding the hands of her two children, with no plan in mind. Over the years she has emerged as a playwright, actor, director, creative writer, and a translator, having acted in, directed, written, and translated more than thirty plays and books. She is a Rotary Global Peace Fellow, a WISCOMP Scholar of Peace, and Executive Director/President of Sakshi, a rights-based NGO.
11. Priyanka Mohanty, Startek Inc.
Priyanka Mohanty completed her education in Chemical Engineering and MBA in Human Resource. Working in Tamil Nadu, at one point she was the only female engineer with grey uniform and yellow helmet amongst 300 blue-collar Tamil workers and Management. She has been a consistent performer and contributed immensely to the business and HR metrics in her company. She co-parents her 5-year son and believes that the journey of motherhood is the best unexplored terrain ever.
12. Shikha Sharma, Kanti Sweets
Shikha Sharma is a successful woman entrepreneur associated with heritage brand Kanti Sweets as a Managing Partner. She is the third generation of family members who are serving customers delectable sweets and savouries through the brand. She has over 10 years of experience in the food industry and has significantly contributed to its growth by introducing innovative measures like fool-proof quality testing systems, a scientifically set-up in-house GLP lab, skill training for unskilled labourers, sustainable practices to reduce waste generated by the company and also the introduction of health foods.
13. Dr Geetanjali Chopra, Wishes and Blessings
Dr Geetanjali Chopra is an academician, columnist, and philanthropist with over ten years of experience. Belonging to a traditional Punjabi family, she has been a Delhi girl all her life. Currently, she is the Founder and President of Wishes and Blessings, a Delhi-based NGO. She completed her Ph.D in International Organisation from the School of International Studies, JNU in 2011. Additionally, she has also undertaken specialised trainings in international law from the Utrecht University (Netherlands) and the International Institute of Humanitarian Law (Italy). At the age of 38, she decided to give-up her well-cushioned job and career to pursue a passion of social work on a full-time basis.
14. Fouzia, Storyteller
Fouzia Dastango, as her name suggests, is an artist of the 16th century oral storytelling art, Dastangoi. She quit her job as a Lecturer to pursue her passion of being a Dastango (storyteller) full time and became India’s first female Dastango. She has made conscious efforts to cover diverse range of topics and issues, such as gender, communalism, lost arts & culture etc. in her practice. She was born in a conservative family in Old Delhi. Her challenges gave her a wide experience which have shaped her to become who she is.
15. Kavita Lakhani, Lintas India
Kavita Lakhani is Executive Director and part of the Leadership Team at Lintas Live (GolinOpinion) – Lintas India. She is one of India’s most respected communications professional with 25 years of experience in Public Relations and Digital Marketing. Her expertise in brand building, message development, public education, crisis management and public affairs using social/traditional media, have made her a sought-after senior counselor. She is also a vocal artist who sings Gurbaani (devotional), Sindhi folk (kalaams), Sufi and Bhajans in Punjabi, Saraiki and Sindhi. Proficient in playing the harmonium and tanpura, she performs live at concerts, cultural programs, etc.
16. Vaishali Nigam Sinha, ReNew Power
Vaishali Nigam Sinha is currently the Chief Sustainability, CSR and Communication Officer at ReNew Power. A strong advocate of equal participation of women in economic activities, she is also passionate about Climate Change, Women’s Entrepreneurship and Leadership. She has previously worked at Wall Street and is now deeply engaged with industry bodies, think tanks, and educational institutions in India, and is a member of the Governing Council of the UN Global Compact Network, India (GCNI) and Chairperson of their Gender Committee. She also authors opinion articles on a range of topics from sustainability to gender parity to CSR which have been published in leading Indian dailies.
17. Dr Sujata Kelkar Shetty, Biological Scientist
Dr Sujata Kelkar Shetty completed her education in Switzerland and the US. She has chosen to work in business developement with Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK). While at home with her first born she started a book club for a group of women, many of whom like me were taking sabbaticals from work to raise their young ones. She has also trained as a life coach and got ICF certified for the same as well. Her book 99 not out! Your guide to a long and healthy life was published last year and received excellent reviews in several newspapers and magazines.
18. Dr Sherline Pimenta K, Kathanika
Equipped with a Bachelors in Fine Art and Humanities, a Masters in Communication Design, and a PhD in Storytelling from IDC IIT Bombay, Dr Sherline Pimenta K choose to carve her own path pursuing her passion for storytelling and communication design. Partnering with her husband Krishna Kumar R., she laid the foundation stones for Kathanika in 2012. In a world where everyone is super busy, Pimenta through stories educates people to pause, listen, observe, empathise and find joy in the little things around.
19. Sushma Jain, Artist
Sushma Jain is an artist whose works have been displayed at various art exhibits and charities. As a personal choice, family always took precedence above everything else for me. Responsibilities of being a daughter, wife, and mother came first, and painting was something she would do in her free time. She further studied art at various stages of life, having won many awards and gold medals. She finds her inspiration in nature and has come to specialise in portraiture, human forms, landscapes and wildlife.
20. Sonal Holland MW, SoHo Wine Consultants
Sonal Holland is one of India’s most celebrated wine professionals. In 2016, she was bestowed with the world’s most prestigious wine title, Master of Wine (MW) with a present count of only 409 MWs across 30 countries and as the first and only Indian to have done so. A domain expert on the business of wine and spirits in India, she is deeply passionate about drawing global attention to the country’s young and exciting beverage industry and make meaningful contributions that forward the cause and culture of the wine industry in India. As a woman entrepreneur who has taken an unconventional path and made a success of it, she encourages women to stand out and become strong leaders in their societies.
21. Sarita Nirjhra, KalaManthan
Writing about her parenting journey, Sarita Nirjhra decided to create a platform for more such people who wanted to share their experiences and contribute to literary art. Hence KalaManthan was born. She is an aspiring poet, writer, and Parent Coach. She is mother to two teenage boys and an educationist by profession. She uses her linguistic art to raise awareness about social issues pertaining to women. She tries to guide new parents to nurture children and raise tomorrow’s successful citizens.
22. Deepali Naair, Aawaz
Deepali Naair is known and loved today as the Chief Marketing Officer of India and South Asia for IBM. She has worked in a diverse set of industries with an experience that reflects her risk taking ability. In 2020, she decided she wanted to find success in something that had not been tried by businesswomen in the country before: a business and leadership podcast launched right in the middle of the chaos of a pandemic. Her weekly podcast, Being CEO with Deepali Naair, with Aawaz.com is about uncovering the more vulnerable side of CEOs.
23. Preeti Vyas, Amar Chitra Katha
Preti Vyas is the current President and CEO of Amar Chitra Katha Private Limited, publishers of the iconic Amar Chitra Katha comics, Tinkle magazine, National Geographic Traveller India, and National Geographic Magazine. She is also the founder of FunOKPlease Publishing that creates contemporary Indian content for children. Through her 25-year-long career, she has been a retailer, publisher, editor, author, and entrepreneur many times over. Each experience, and especially the losses and failures, both personal and professional, have helped shape her into who she is today.
24. Aparajita Jain, Nature Morte Art
Aparajita Jain has been working in the field of art for the last 15 years and has made substantial contributions to art and soft power through art for India. She has been the co-director of Nature Morte since 2012. She was also a founding/council member of Harvard University’s South Asia Arts Council. In 2010, Jain founded The Saat Saath Arts Foundation – a not-for-profit initiative for creative dialogue between India and the international art world. She has given numerous talks on art on different platforms.
25. Sujaya Banerjee, Capstone People Consulting
Dr Sujaya Banerjee is a Leadership and Change Management Expert with over 30 years of driving Culture Transformation through Leadership for organisations. Making the shift to entrepreneurship at 50 years old, currently she is the 54-year old Founder-CEO of Capstone People Consulting – a contemporary Capability Building and Advisory Firm. She is also a regular speaker across Singapore and other South-East Asian Countries. She founded the Women Leadership Forum of Asia and is a passionate Evangelist for equal opportunities, diversity, and inclusion.
26. Lt Sandhya Suri, Esperance Media Publication
Lieutenant Sandhya Suri is a Navy veteran, among the few who were posted on a warship. A 48-year-old single mother to a 20-year-old daughter, she is now a Change Enabler, author, poet, motivational speaker, and owns a firm that deals with media, publishing, management consulting and events. Her journey has always been a unique road, she says, probably because when it came to choosing she choose the road less travelled. For her, doing what she loves is a learning curve that doesn’t end. Her philosophy and goal is to build a community of men who support women and other genders without bias and help establish a better liveable environment.
27. Nirmala Nair, Kaboom Social Impact
Nirmala Nair is known in the field of arts and communication for being a part of various projects that range from social work to storytelling. Her first professional assignment was the much-acclaimed documentary India Untouched. A 3 year-long engagement travelling across India documenting caste gave her purpose in life. After several jobs, her last position was as the Country Director at the German NGO WASH United. She is striving to make menstruation a dignified experience. She is a ‘She Creates Change’ fellow at Change.org and has a petition running to make education on menstruation compulsory in schools in India. She lives by the motto ‘At the end, you only regret the things you did not try’.
28. Neeti Mehra, BeejLiving
Neeti Mehra is a slow living coach and a sustainability consultant. In 2017, she founded www.beejliving.com, a curated platform to promote slow living in India. Being an editor for nearly two decades before that, with a focus on the luxury industry, she understood the devastating impact of fast-paced living. She felt a need to dig deeper in what life had to offer. Thus, began her quest to help people pause and focus on a value system that pivoted around slowing down. Beejliving nudges people to live mindfully within contemporary chaos.
29. Rajashree Rao, Rolls Royce
Rajashree (Shree) Rao is a globally acclaimed Industry Thought leader, visionary, advisor, principal consultant, and mentor in next-gen technologies across industry verticals. She has been recognised as one of the Top 100 Women B2B Global Thought Leaders to follow in 2020. She is a passionate technologist who challenges the industry and technology providers to innovate and think out of the box. She is known for breaking the glass ceiling in her professional and personal life to evolve into who truly she wants to be. Her current role is as the head of AI Innovation Hub and Partnerships and Ecosystem (APAC) for R2 Data Labs at Rolls-Royce (RR). “Comfortable in the Uncomfortable” is the motto she lives by.
30. Chanpreet Arora, Rezilient Digital Services
Chanpreet Arora is a recognised leader in the Indian Media Industry. Her work over the last 19 years as a business strategist, entrepreneur, and an industry leader has been focused on launching new and leading international and local traditional and digital media brands in India. She has been actively involved in encouraging micro-financed start-ups and NGOs to empower artisans and skilled workers in gaining financial independence. As a student of Vipassana and Yoga, she is committed to evolving an approach to life through incorporating compassion and mindfulness in actions at work and home.
31. Srushti Rao, IKS Health
Srushti Rao is a marketing and communications specialist, an erstwhile entrepreneur, artist, author, social media influencer, and content creator with a rich experience spanning over 19 years over various industries. She also co-founded two companies Penwindow Communications and Itemmom.com. Presently, she is the Associate Vice President – Communications at IKS Health, a leading healthcare services company. She is an emerging visual artist with a number of solo and group exhibitions, nationally and internationally. She has also authored Of Unspoken Words and Half Said Truth.
32. Ambreen Khan, Indian Express
Ambreen Khan is the head of corporate communications at media giant Indian Express. She has been associated with the newspaper since 2006, fulfilling leadership roles. She is committed to, in her own words, defining the distinction between The Express Group & The Indian Express Newspapers Ltd. and other in-house Publications, creating a clear understanding of the brands for its readers. She is also responsible for leading the brand identity, idea exchanges, and institutional engagements.
33. Vidya Shah, Edelgive Foundation
Vidya Shah is the Chairperson and CEO of EdelGive Foundation, an organisation under the parent company of the Edelweiss Group. She is working towards building the capacities of the not for profit sector, and serves as the director on various boards and advisory councils of organisations committed to social impact. Shah was previously associated with Edelweiss Group as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). She obtained an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and is recognised as one of the top women leaders in her industry.
34. NS Nappinai, Advocate
NS Nappinai, Supreme Court Advocate and founder of Cyber Saathi, is a senior and renowned lawyer focused on litigation and policy work, apart from her social responsibility engagements for training judges, police, armed forces, students, and industry, according to her website. She appears as counsel in cases pertaining to Constitutional, Criminal, IPR & Cyber laws. Her expertise in Criminal and constitutional cases since 1991 has led to her being recognisd for handling complex financial fraud cases. She has also represented cases of women empowerment and cyber safety in court.
35. Abha Naraina Lambah, Architect
Abha Narain Lambah is a well-known conservation architect who heads the Abha Narain Lambah Associates, one of the leading architecture firms in the country. Her work focuses on Architectural Conservation, Building Restoration & Retrofit, Museum Design, Historic Interiors, Preparation of Urban and Regional Level Conservation Management Plans, according. to the website. Her practice has restored several UNESCO heritage sites in India, from the Ajanta Caves to the Royal Opera House to Buddhist sites in Bodh Gaya.
36. Dr Ritu Anand, Tata Consultancy Services
Dr Ritu Anand is a pioneer in the field of Human Resources with a career spanning 25+ years. She is currently a Senior Vice President at Tata Consultancy Services and spearheads TCS’ Workplace Diversity and Leadership Initiatives. She holds a doctorate in Psychology. Anand is a thought leader with a passion for nurturing human capital and creating people-value through Culture, Inclusion, and Leadership Transformation.
She holds her philosophy of ‘Inclusion Without Exception’ close to heart and believes that Diversity can be sustained if we bring in ‘Diversity of Mind’ into the DNA of our organisations, with petals that touch upon behaviours like empathy, humility, passion, energy, and gratitude. You will find interesting anecdotes from her every Thursday on her LinkedIn blog with the hashtag #ThursdayRITUal.
37. Anavila Misra, Designer
Anavila Misra, also known as the ‘Linen Queen’ of India, is a leading designer noted for her luxury brand Anavila, which focuses on subtle, natural designs while retaining the traditional Indian ethos of cloth. The brand began in 2011 when Misra, after a stint abroad, returned to India and began creating completely modern, comfortable and desirable to wear linen sarees. She works closely with artisans to create sustainable fashion.
38. Debjani Ghosh, NASSCOM
Debjani Ghosh is the President of the National Association of Software & Services Companies (NASSCOM) since April 2018. A veteran of the technology industry, she is the first woman at the helm in NASSCOM’s three-decade history. She is a firm believer in the power of technology in enhancing lives and livelihoods, leveraging it for societal good. As NASSCOM President, she actively works with the industry and Government to accelerate the growth of the industry and strengthen India’s position as a hub for Innovation and Digital Talent.
39. Divia Thani, Conde Nast Traveller
Divia Thani has served as the editor of Conde Nast Traveller since 2010, leading the renowned brand in India for a decade and overseeing strategy for print, digital, social, events, and virtual events. She is a seasoned travel and lifestyle writer, and prior to serving as CNT editor, was the features editor at VOGUE.
40. Madhuri Kanitkar, Indian Army
Paediatrician Dr Madhuri Kanitkar has served the nation for over 37 years. The highly efficient and competent officer has earlier this year made the entire nation proud as she was decorated with the second-highest post in the Indian Army. Formerly Lieutenant General Madhuri Kanitkar was the Dean of Armed Forces Medical College, Pune and currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Medical). She is also the only doctor on the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council. She is the first lady officer in the history of the Indian armed forces to share the same three-star rank as her husband. Read her exclusive interview with us here.
The list is no particular order.