The Indian Women CEO have arrived and how?


Yes, The Era of Women CEO has arrived and from the looks of it, it is here to stay. Now, women have been there and done that at the positions that matter for quite sometime. But the last decade or so has seen a drastic change when it comes to the participation of Women at the pinnacle of organization hierarchy – specifically MD & CEO positions.

Fortune 500 often publishes the list of most powerful women around the globe, and it sure is heartening to see. Infact, India Inc. has every reason to be proud of the kind of talent that its women have demonstrated at the top.

Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi being one of the most powerful women CEO in the world serves the right testimony.

Though there is no hiding the fact that the Indian women have risen from nowhere to reach the top. They have despite all the odds matched the opposite sex inch by inch in each and every sector. But, there is one sector however, that has been long considered the forte of MAN. Yes, you got it right.


Not trying to be gender biased here, but Banking and Finance (BFS) has been at the disposal of the so called ‘Pants Of The House’ (no pun intended). But switch to the present and the same sector has been shaken upside down by the oh-so powerful Women.

Here are some of the leading ladies at the leading banks functioning in India,

Ms. Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer –

Chanda KocharShe needs no introduction. From a management trainee with ICICI in 1983 to the CEO now, it is no surprise that she knows the pulse of the Banking and Finance Industry.

Ms. Shikha Sharma, CEO of Axis Bank

 Shikha Sharma

Another Industry veteran coming originally from the ICICI stable. She was the managing director of ICICI prudential life insurance. She has  been one of the driving forces behind the  Life Insurance Council.

It is interesting to note that Shikha Sharma was the front runner for the ICICI CEO post along with Chanda Kochar. But then, ICICI’s loss turned out to be AXIS Bank’s gain.

It is also noteworthy that AXIS Bank has been named the Best Private Sector bank by Duns & Bradstreet. Given the talent and experience of CEO, Shikha Sharma, AXIS Bank might just do it again and again.

Naina Lal Kidwai, CEO of HSBC

naina lal kidwai

Ms. Kidwai has a flair for being the ‘First’. Her tryst with the finance world is not without it either. Here is the list of the First’s she is associated with,

  • She is the first Indian women to graduate from the Harvard Business School.
  • Naina Lal Kidwai has become the first women to head a foreign bank in India.
  • She is first Indian on the Nestle AG board and one of the few Indian non-executive directors of a global MNC.

If these are anything to go by, they speak volumes about her acumen and talent.

The three banks mentioned are one of the biggest banks functioning in India. And with the baton now handed over to these powerful women, Sky seems to be the limit.

However, current global slowdown and economy downturn will be a true test of character. Will they outshine their male counterparts? In my opinion they will, even if we account for the Talent and Business Knowledge being same among both.

Women are better at handling pressures. Given the way The Indian women has been groomed over centuries, coming out of tense and complicated situations has been their forte. Moreover, given the gender bias they are subjected to, they overcome it with intensity and dedication which only helps them become better leaders.

People management is one of the most important challenge in times like these. And it is not secret, that women are intrinsically better at handling people than most men are.

Often overlooked and refuted, Finance and Banking is one sector that comes naturally to Indian Women. No matter what, it is the women who handles most of the household finances. So, even in families where the men are Bread Earners, it is the lady of the house who gets the best bread at the best price.

The world is surely taking notice of the prowess of Indian Women, and the finance industry is leading the pack. The private sector banks have been rather prominent when it comes to acquiring the women talent as and when available. It’s about time that the public sector banks catch up.

What saddens me is the fact that despite all the achievements, the Indian Women still does not enjoy the same liberty and rights.Why can’t we come out of shackles and acknowledge talent and good work without getting blinded by Gender Bias

On a side note, to the people who think that a Women should not be allowed to go to a bar/pub for a drink, she might be running the same bar and the bar you people go to in not so distant future. So, instead of deciding and imposing what the women should and shouldn’t do, go get a life because the Tide is Turning.

The Indian Women is getting far ahead in the race to top.

This guest post is written by Ankit Agarwal, an ERP Consultant by profession, a wannabe entrepreneur and stock market stalker by passion

  1. […] women bosses in the Indian workforce may have been irrelevant. Today, India Inc has woken up to a surreal surge of women executives taking reigns of companies, departments and organizations and are slowing clawing back on the apparent gender gap that has […]

  2. Bhargavi Pandya says

    hi like it…….
    i do it?

  3. Feroz Sait says


  4. Chetan says

    The power and rights of women.. Now in their cell phones! Thanks Uninor!

  5. Kavita says

    Hi Arun,
    Thanks for the article. Women in India are truly on their rise and are giving their male counterparts a tough competition starting from the employee level to that of the top notch positions like the CEO. However, such percentage of women is very minimal as the rest of the women are either unaware of their rights and are constantly being the victims of domestic violence and other social tortures or are constantly at a conflict with their husbands and in-laws because they want to live a life in their own terms. My question is when can those women be treated with respect and they will also have the liberty to live? Vineet Nayar, the HCL CEO, has likewise mentioned about his concern for the women rights and liberty and that they have the potentials like their male counterparts for the progress and prosperity.
    I have come across an article that talks about women leadership and equality. The link is as follows:

  6. navneet Mehra says

    Its good that Sulajja Firodiya Motwani’s name is missing as she could not successfully handle the two wheeler business despite a very growing tw wheeler market in india and the father Arun Firodiya sold it out to Anand Mahindra.

    She has learned the hard way that importing and launching “phoren” bikes wearing small skirts in Delhi hotels maybe a good time pass and a god way of burning companys money but does not bring business, business is brought by a team of satisfied employees, dealers and vendors. Which unfortunately this group desnt have.

    So sad.

  7. salmat lawal says

    well it is nice to see woman growing too.but the most importantthing is that no matter how we still use to end up in man world. i really admire them all i hope that one day i will grow to be like them.


    RBI brings Private Bank CEOs’ salaries under scrutiny
    Axis Bank is another such bank where in the MD takes 3 crores salary plus 100000 ESOP, DMD takes 2 lacs ESOPs per year, where as the other hard working branch employees upto the level of AVP does not get any ESOPs, although they are the real gems and pillars of the bank who contribute to the business of the bank. Other cream of Top management consisting of 2% of the employees in the grade of VP, SVP, Presidents enjoys annual ESOPS between 12000 to 40000 ESOPS every year. This shows the greed and unethical conduct of the top management in looting the investors money. Company Law Board should do necessary amendment in Company Law and should give the ownership rights to each and every employee of the organisation and there should not be a large gaps as seen in Axis Bank while distributing the ESOPs between the lower grade and the highest grade employee.
    Some people say that they are Out of Box Thinkers and hence they are eligible for higher remuneration – Out of Box Thinking is nothing but putting pressure on mid and lower level employees in order to achieve the budgets and force them to mis-sell the Insurance, MF, Forex Derivative and other bank products to customers and then force branch employees to get involved into various frauds arising out of mis-selling. Yes this is called Out of Box Thinking of the top management.
    Is there any Accountability concept in Private Sector Bank ? No
    Is the Whistle Blower policy implemented in its True Spirit ? No
    Is the CEO responsible for the frauds & collapse of the financial institutions? No
    If yes then why the RBI, SEBI & ED has not taken any action on the banks promoters and CEOs like GTB, CBL, BoR ( including finance companies like Lloyds Finance ) which has collapsed and later merged with nationalized banks. Do our regulatory authority had been protecting the Investors Interest or the CEO’s interest? How serious is there Audit procedure?
    There have been serious frauds happening in Govt Accounts such as JNNURM, Municipal Corporation Accounts, Central Excise, Agri Credit at Rajkot, Lucknow, Forex Frauds in Kolkatta and Mumbai which has been happening for last 3 years and the bank auditors could not unearth the frauds. SEBI, RBI, Enforcement Directorate & Economic Offence Wing should investigate in to the matter and fix accountability on the Top Officials of Axis Bank. Even some officials at Vice President level have used the public money for paying the fees of his children’s personal benefits, by debiting the suspense account and the auditors have failed to investigate in to the matter, as the auditor himself was involved in various frauds in the bank.
    If this practices continues, you will see similar situations in next 3 years, and the RBI will have to merge this white private sector elephants with nationalized bank and hence we should control the Salary of CEO and implement strict vigilance and staff Accountability in private sector banks.
    I suggest all of you to read ” If god was a Banker ” by Ravi subramaniam and my experience with Private Sector Bank is a similar story, its all about looting the public money for the fun and enjoyment of Top Officials.
    Recently the European Parliament approved the world’s toughest curbs on unsound remuneration practices in banks as an efforts to limit risk in a sector shored up by taxpayers and the Indian government too has seen the financial scams earlier and we look forward to Regulatory Authority in implementing the accountability concept in Private Sector Bank.
    Ex Employee & Shareholder of Axis Bank
    [email protected]


    Shadow on the Axis Culture
    Ref Business India 25/07/2010
    Axis Bank has grown by acquiring business by aggressive pressure on the branches and ignored fundamental aspects of banking such as operational efficiency, staff accountability, audit & compliance and hence the bank is facing a serious issues with a high NPAs, serious frauds through senior branch officials due to business pressure and also unethical HR practices like withdrawal of ESOP’s up to the level of AVPs and frequent changes in PMS & Promotion policies has increased staff attrition rate. It’s a time to re look into those issues seriously and grow clean & green in order to bring the permanent light from shadow.
    Sanjay Prabhu – Pune

  10. Madhav says

    Hi Arun,

    Thanks for checking out our website.


  11. ankit_agarwal says

    I don't quite agree with you.There are so many names that are there.Appllo's business (Reddy's) business is almost run by the women, then Hindustan Unilever has some top notch positions managed by Women.
    however, yes, family taking precendence has been the case for many women nt pursuing their carrier.But the times are changing, it is the women who is taking that call now, rather than the man of the house deciding it for her.

    @kirti thanks, thats exactly what i wanted to signify:D

    @madhav Glad you think the same.And thanks for enlightening us with the Japan scenario.I hope things change and we can have this “May the best man/women win” globally

  12. shashi says

    I am looking for my biological parents in India.
    I was 6 years old when I arrived in Belgium.
    I am adopted from Delhi 1976 in December.
    I should like to tell my story in a newspaper and want to tell about it on television.
    I’m looking forward to meet people who can help me to find the right way in searching my parents in India?



  13. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Hi Arun/ Ankit,

    No doubt India is far ahead of most of the developing countries in encouraging women entrepreneurs including having special bank loans for women, education quota for women, etc., . Indian women have held respectable posts in public and private companies, and government posts (including politics) since a long time.

    I can tell you from living in Japan that not many companies encourage women managers. Its very much a male dominated society and women at the work place are expected to make tea for the boss or visitors, replenish paper for the photocopier, or fill water in the humidifiers. They are not given a front line job. So, yes. Many Indians might not agree, but Indian women are going places.

    On a separate note, I have created a new blog that will focus on blogging about lifestyle aspects about India and we encourage bloggers (women included :-)) to join in our journey. In my blog on “what is a blog” I mentioned your site. Please check it out –


    1. Arun Prabhudesai says

      Hey Madhav,
      Thanks for letting us know about your site and also, some good domain name you got there…best of luck for that.

      Actually, we should be really proud of what Indian women are doing coming up from still-conservative-Indian-society. Even in liberalized western world, male domination continues except probably few european countries…
      Think of it, America does not have a Female President yet !!! Whereas India had it nearly 35 years back… and probably even today as a proxy ;)..

      So yes, Indian women are going doubt about that..

  14. kirti says

    well written!
    no doubt wat Sriram have elucidated above is True, but the motive here i c for this article is not to jus brag about these THREE epitome of Sucess but an eyeopener for all those breadearners there, to have faith in their spouses as well, coz just as they are realizing what are females gud at dey xcel in knowing what generally bogs dem down!

    1. reshma says

      very nice

  15. Sriram Vadlamani says

    This is good news. But the problem is, these are the 4 names I have been hearing for a while along with Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon.

    Do we have anyone else other than these 4?

    Also, there is a reason why we don’t see women at the top. They are first to sacrifice once the family starts. This is what happened with the families of Nandan Nilekani and Narayana Murthy.

    For all the things in the world Rohini Nilekani and Sudha Murthy would have had the same kind of future like their spouses.

    PS : You forgot Mamatha Benarjee – CEO of Indian Railways and Mayawati CEO of Uttar Pradesh, Sonia Gandhi – CEO of _________?

    1. Sriram Vadlamani says

      I take my words back about Mayawati. I just found out that she is not a CEO but a GOD.

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