A woman is a unique combination of charm, courage, creativity and resilience. Looking around us, we find that every woman and her life exemplifies all this and more. The ability to take on and embrace different challenges and situations is a remarkable woman trait. While there could be several reasons for this, we are not here to dive into them. Instead, we are here to celebrate and applaud this unique creation of the universe with some stories of inspirational women who have made a name for themselves.
These women have passionately and courageously fought to get where they wanted and are truly inspirational. They have broken the stereotypes and fought for their place in the sun. These inspiring stories of women can be a source of inspiration for every woman, no matter what her age or stage.
1. Gita Gopinath – is an Indian- American economist who has served as the first Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund(IMF) since January 2022. She had earlier served as Chief Economist of the IMF between 2019 and 2022.
After completing her Master’s from the Delhi School of Economics, Gita went on to do a second Master’s in Economics from the University of Washington, followed by her Doctorate from Princeton.
Starting her career at the University of Chicago, she joined the Economics Department of Harvard University. After Amartya Sen, she is the second Indian to get a permanent membership in Harvard’s Economics Department.
A role model for women in India and overseas, she has been awarded several awards and honours. In 2021, she was named among the “25 Most Influential Women of the Year” by the Financial Times and was also named among the Bloomberg “50 People Who Defined 2019” and among the “Women Who Broke Major Barriers to Become Firsts” by Time magazine.
Belonging to Kerala, she is the younger daughter of a farmer entrepreneur. She is married to Iqbal Singh Dhaliwal, her classmate from the Delhi School of Economics and has a son named Rahil.
2. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw – Ranked 60th on the Forbes list of most powerful women in the world, she is the richest self-made woman billionaire in India.
Born and brought up in Bangalore, she chose an unconventional field of study, fermentation science, to become a brewmaster.
After working for others briefly, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw started her venture- Biocon, in 1978. Her belief in ‘affordable innovation” led her to develop cost-effective drugs and alternatives. Her company, of which she is the Chairperson and Managing Director, went on to become the largest biotechnology/biopharmaceutical company in India.
Currently, she holds many critical positions. She is the Chairperson of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and a member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. She has been given due recognition for her achievements from the Government of India, which conferred her with the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
A woman who has made a name for herself in the male-dominated world, she is a true inspiration.
3. Avni Chaturvedi is an Indian Air Force pilot from Madhya Pradesh who became the first Indian woman fighter pilot to fly the ‘MIG 21 Bison’ solo. The MiG-21 Bison is known for its highest take-off and landing speed in the world at 340 kmph.
Fascinated by the idea of flying, Avni joined the Flying Club of her college and decided to take this up as a career. She was selected for training at the Air Force Academy and completed her course at 25. After further training, she became a fighter pilot in June 2016. She was inspired by her brother to join the Indian Air Force.
She was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar by the President on 9 March 2020.
She has inspired many young women by making a mark in a male-dominated field.
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4. Shakuntala Devi – (4 November 1929 – 21 April 2013) was an Indian mental calculator and writer, popularly known as the “Human-Computer”.
Born in 1929 to a Kannada Brahmin family, her father discovered her ability to memorise numbers and taught her card tricks. He would take her on road shows to demonstrate her calculation ability. A precocious child, she established her arithmetic abilities without any formal education.
Devi was also a notable astrologer and authored many books, including cookbooks and novels. She was also interested in music and tried her hand in politics as well.
Though from a humble background, she made a name for herself and travelled the world.
5. Mary Kom – is an Olympic boxer from Manipur and comes from a humble background. While still in school, she got interested in athletics. At this time, Dingko Singh, a fellow Manipuri, won a gold medal at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, inspiring her and many other youngsters to try boxing.
Not only did she try her hand at boxing, but she also acquired excellence in the sport and made a name for herself.
She is the only woman to achieve the coveted No. 1 position in the International Boxing Association (AIBA) after becoming the World Amateur Boxing champion for a record six times. Kom is also the only woman boxer to have won a medal in all seven world championships, making it a world record.
Known as ‘Magnificent Mary,’ she has become India’s favourite sportsperson, shining on several International platforms.
She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for her sports accomplishments.
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6. Richa Kar – She is the founder of the lingerie brand Zivame. Though she and her brand are well-known now, her journey was not easy. Coming from a conventional background, it was very difficult for her to convince her parents to support her in her venture. Her idea of getting into lingerie was not at all acceptable to them.
However, against all the odds, she launched Zivame in 2011. She did it on her own by using up all her savings, and when she fell short, she borrowed almost 35 lakhs rupees from her friends and took the plunge.
Through her hard work and determination, she impressed investors who started funding her project first with $3 million in 2012, then $6 million in 2013, and $40 million in 2015.
Today Zivame is worth more than $6.81 Billion (681 crores).
Richa Kar is one of the most influential womenpreneurs in India today and is an inspiration for many. She proved that you can do just about anything if you have the conviction.
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7. Kalpana Chawla – (17 March 1962 – 1 February 2003) was an Indian-born American astronaut and mechanical engineer who was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space. She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator.
Coming from Karnal in Haryana, she was deeply interested in planes and flying since childhood. After spending her early years in India, she moved to the US to do her second Master’s and then her PhD. After that, she started working for NASA.
Chawla was one of the seven crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the spacecraft disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Chawla was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and several streets, universities, and institutions have been named in her honour. She is regarded as a national hero in India.
8. Indra Nooyi – is a business executive and former CEO of PepsiCo. She has consistently been ranked among the world’s 100 most powerful women and was featured on the Fortune List in 2015 as the 2nd most powerful woman in the world.
In 2018, Nooyi was named as one of the ‘Best CEOs in the World’ and has also been awarded the Padma Bhushan and the CNN-IBM Indian of the year- Global Indian award 2019. She serves as a board member of Amazon currently and is the 2nd woman to be part of the board at Amazon.
After having spent her early years in India, she moved to the US to study at Yale, and after that, she joined the corporate world and made a name and place for herself.
9. Rajni Bector – As they say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’
Age, stage and circumstances can never be a barrier unless we let them be. Rajni Bector is a case in point. She was passionate about baking, and she decided to fuel that passion, and as they say, the rest is history. Though Rajni was married into a well-to-do business family in Ludhiana, where typically a woman was not required to work to earn, she continued to be passionate about baking. Not only that, she decided to make it into a business which started from the backyard of her house. Starting with Rs 20000 in 1978, she built the business to a level where it ended up providing financial support to her family when the need arose.
Today her brand Cremica has tied up with brands like McDonald’s, Cadbury and many more.
10. Mina Bindra is a living example of how ‘Age does not define anything’. The founder of the readymade ethnic wear brand Biba, she started her business when she was 39 years old from her home in Mumbai. What started out as a hobby went on to become a successful business venture. This tells us that it is never too late to follow your dream.
She started her business on a very small scale by taking a loan. Her passion and drive made her succeed and make her venture worth Rs 600 crores.
Meena revolutionised the concept of ‘salwar kameez’, which till that point in time was viewed as a North Indian form of attire. Her styling made it a country-wide rage. Her story tells us that having confidence in yourself and a passion for something can significantly change your life.
These inspirational women truly exemplify what a woman can do if she sets her mind to it.