Express Awards recognize leading female entrepreneurs

It will undoubtedly be a memorable evening highlighting true corporate solidarity and a single objective of supporting women’s entrepreneurship.

The Express Awards for Women Entrepreneurs (or ExpressAWE) announced on Friday have seen a tidal wave of entrepreneurial success. But what also added sparkle and weight to this memorable evening were rich and insightful conversations between industry veterans with lifelong takeaways for the many leading and budding female entrepreneurs.

The evening began with an introductory interview of Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Meta, by Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group, who covered the entire changing landscape of female entrepreneurship.

The author of ‘Lean In’, a landmark book for working women, Sandberg urged the growing number of women in Indian colleges not to ‘leave before you go’.

Praising the Indian Express Group for instituting ExpressAWE and starting important conversations, Sandberg recalled that while the proverbial glass ceiling still needs to be broken by more women, there was also a broken rung that needed fixing.

Or to quote an excerpt from the interview: “Before you even get to that glass ceiling, there’s a broken rung and that’s that first promotion to manager…men are promoted and hired based on their potential, women have to prove it… So the inequity starts a few years after university.

This was followed by a free and engaging discussion between industry veterans and the members of the judging panel who chose the awards in the organization/established business segment.

Each of them is a shooting star for many aspiring entrepreneurs (women and men) – Deepak Parekh, President of HDFC and also President of the Jury; Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO and President, Salesforce India; Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairman, Biocon and Biocon Biologics; Preetha Reddy, executive vice president, Apollo Hospitals; and Zia Mody, co-founder and managing partner, AZB & Partners.

They discussed what enabled and hindered the “Power of Her” and attempted to answer some crucial questions regarding the changing landscape of female entrepreneurship in India, their advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs, what industry could do to enable this, what government and policy makers could do to facilitate it even more. They also spent a few minutes thinking about what they would do differently if they had to start all over again today. The message that came out of the discussion was that it was imperative for women entrepreneurs to stay the course, to not give up and to remember that their time had come.

One of the highlights of the evening was a pleasant and engaging conversation between Newsmaker of the Year award winner Falguni Nayar, Founder and CEO of Nykaa, and Lifetime Achievement Award winner Anu Aga, former president of Thermax. Examine a range of issues women leaders face and how they sort through them and carve out a niche for themselves. From the nurturing ingredients they rely on, to the role spouses and families play, how legacy is viewed, and how merit really matters. This and many more emerged from the discussion between the two – one, a leader who became an icon of entrepreneurship and leadership in adversity, then embarked on institution building while that the other made the news and inspired others with a deep entrepreneurial ability to spot an opportunity and ensure wealth creation for stakeholders while remaining focused on building the brand.

Watching the evening unfold, one couldn’t help but agree with Deepak Parekh who on behalf of Harry Belafonte said: “Let’s conclude that today’s women are smarter than men in every way sight! EF

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