To be an ambitious and talented woman in India is a difficult dream to carry through. In India, the role of woman is so strongly entrenched in tradition that many find it difficult to break free of it. So, Indian women have long been struggling to assert themselves in positions of power. While advancements are being made, and some strong female Indian voices are campaigning for change, today only 5 of the top 100 richest Indians are women: There is still a long way to go. This minority reveals the extent to which the Indian woman’s position is still very much in the home. However, India is currently undergoing rapid economic development – with it, women’s access to education and independence is growing.
The five women listed below are independently wealthy, and they represent an important step in the improvement of gender equality in India. They open up the option of female empowerment to fellow Indian women and encourage other ambitious Indian women to ask – ‘why not me?’ They symbolise a modern femininity which they strive to promote around them, and invite reflection on women’s capacity to innovate and prosper even in the traditionally male-dominated domains of business, science and politics. Although it’s certainly worth noting that only one of the women in our list is ‘self-made’ according to Forbes. However, as is explored below, the women who were born or married into wealth have made sure that their voices resonate in society by supporting gender equality campaigns and institutions, occupying political roles, attaining high-powered jobs in the media, or getting involved in human rights and the arts.
The five women on our list have been ranked according to their net worth from lowest to highest, as estimated by the Forbes ‘India’s Richest’ list.
5. Shobhana Bhartia – $645 million
After graduating from Calcutta University, Shobhana Bhartia followed in her father’s footsteps to the publishing industry. Living in Delhi, she runs the mass media company Hindustan Times Media that publishes the English and Hindi versions of the Hindustan Times daily, and the business newspaper Mint. The group also operates four radio stations and a diverse selection of websites. She inherited the Hindustan Times Group from her father and has proceeded to run it with much success since 2008. She has been accredited with pioneering the company’s long-term vision and strategy. Currently 57 year old, Shobhana Bhartia is one of India’s most powerful businesswomen. She features on Forbes’s ‘Asia’s most powerful businesswoman to watch’ and was awarded the title of India’s ‘Media Person Of The Year’ for 2013 by the International Advertising Association. Her influential power and leadership skills were further acknowledged by the fact that she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (the Indian House of Parliament) between 2006 and 2012. This is particularly significant in a country where currently only 10, 6% of the Rajya Sabha representatives are female.