South Asian women
[Photo courtesy of Shakti Collaborative.]

This post was originally posted on Shakti Collaborative and republished here with permission. 

What a year it’s been – full of highs, lows, and craziness in between. But in our conversations this past year, one thing was incredibly clear: 2018 was an amazing year for South Asian women. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to bring together many of these groundbreaking achievements and celebrate our collective badassery. From women across multiple countries and as young as 14 to 40+, we’re highlighting some of our favorite, most inspiring moments of the year – in no particular order:

Championing Representation and Challenging Stereotypes

  1. Deepica Mutyala launched Tinted, an inclusive beauty community that explores identity and culture for every shade in between
  2. Rooshy Roy, Nina Davuluri and Justin Silver launched aavrani, a skincare brand harnessing the power of India’s ancient beauty rituals and challenging cultural stigmas around beauty
  3. Cuyana co-founders Shilpa Shah and Karla Gallardo partnered with Lola on International Women’s Day to introduce the Femme Pouch, designed to bring beauty and functionality to the idea of carrying your essentials (like tampons!) with pride
  4. Bumble officially launched in India, giving women a tool to stand on and to be the best version of themselves
  5. Influencer Diipa Khosla and her husband Oleg Büller set a beautiful example through their wedding of what it means to challenge longtime, established traditions and focus on mutual love, respect, and equality
  6. Priyanka Chopra became the first Indian woman to appear on the cover of U.S. Vogue Magazine
  7. Garima Arora, the mastermind behind the Bangkok restaurant GAA, became the first Indian female chef to earn a Michelin star

Pushing Creativity Forward and Sharing Our Unique Voices

  1. Melanie Chandra and Surina Jindal released the pilot for their show, Surina & Mel, about two American-born South Asian women living in New York City and dealing with the reality of the adult world
  2. Disney Junior started production on Mira, Royal Detective, its first TV series inspired by the culture and customs of India – with an incredible cast including Leela Ladnier, Kal Penn, Jameela Jamil, Freida Pinto, Hannah Simone, Amritha Vaz, Nakul Dev Mahajan, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Aasif Mandvi, Sarayu Blue and Karan Soni
  3. Medha Gandhi was chosen as the new co-host for “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show”
  4. Reema Kakaday and Anumeha Sinha launched Third Eye Co, a career-oriented organization for South Asian women creatives
  5. Brown Girl Magazine organized its first ever Slashie Summit, an all-day experience that empowers South Asians to challenge the stigma behind creative aspirations and career paths
  6. Rupi Kaur signed with ICM Partners to expand her career into film, television, and theater

Inspiring Social Change for a Better World

  1. U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal announced the Federal Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights that if passed, would become the first national legislation extending basic labor protections to domestic workers
  2. Pakistani women made history with an unprecedented turnout in the country’s general election in July, as women from remote and tribal areas came out for the first time to vote
  3. Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code and Meena Harris, Founder of Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, joined together with other leaders to found 100K Ventures, an accelerator group that will invest in early-stage companies in Flint, Michigan
  4. Meena Harris successfully launched an initiative to feature a full-page ad in The New York Times with 1,600 signatures from men in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford – echoing the 1991 ad of 1,600 African American women in support of Anita Hill
  5. Geetha Murali, CEO of Room to Read, was named a [email protected] icon nominee by Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
  6. Shivani Siroya, CEO of Tala, was named a [email protected] icon nominee by Melinda Gates

Making Strides in the Business World

  1. Jayshree Ullal, CEO of Arista Networks, was named to Barron’s World’s Best CEOs list
  2. Dhivya Suryadevara was named the first female CFO of General Motors
  3. ClassPass, founded by Payal Kadakia, raised $85 million to fund global expansion
  4. HubHaus, a provider of co-living housing solutions founded by Shruti Merchant, raised $10 million to expand operations and business reach
  5. 20+ South Asian women named to Forbes’ 2019 30 Under 30 list, including Komal Ahmad (CEO & Founder, Copia), Anchal Lamba (President, Gong Cha Tea), Sabena Suri (Chief Strategy Officer & Co-Founder, Boxfox), Sabena Gupta (Director, Brand Strategy and Marketing, The New York Times), Sana Merchant (Senior Manager of Club Social Media Strategy, NFL) and Priya Saiprasad (Principal, M12)
  6. Six South Asian women named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list: Anu Duggal (Founding Partner, Female Founders Fund), Dhivya Suryadevara (CFO, General Motors), Sumaiya Balbale (VP of E-Commerce, Mobile and Digital Marketing, Walmart), Anjali Sud (CEO, Vimeo), Neha Narula (Director of Digital Currency Initiative, MIT Media Lab) and Tina Bhatnagar (VP of Operations, Coinbase)

Testing Endurance, Grit and our Physical Strength

  1. 24-year-old Avani Chaturvedi, one of the first three female fighter pilots to be inducted into the Indian Air Force, made history as the first Indian woman fighter pilot to fly solo
  2. An all-woman Indian navy crew successfully circumnavigated the globe in a 55-foot sailboat in more than eight months, the first ever Indian expedition steered by women sailors
  3. Several Indian women took home gold for the first time in their sport at the 2018 Asia Games; Rahi Sarnobat became the first Indian female shooter to win gold, Swapna Barman became the first Indian woman to win gold in the heptathlon and Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold
  4. Hima Das became the first Indian woman athlete to win a gold at the world level as she clinched the top spot in the women’s 400m final race in the IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships
  5. Dr. Susane Giti was appointed as the first female Major General in the Bangladesh Army
  6. 24-year-old Afghan climber Hanifa Yousoufi reached the top of 24,580-foot Mount Noshaq as the first woman from her country ever to do so

Innovating in Science and Technology

  1. More than 45 young South Asian women named award winners at Intel’s 2018 International Science Fair
  2. Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Padmasree Warrior, Neha Narkhede and Komal Mangtani were named to the Forbes World’s Top Women in Tech list
  3. A team of five teenage girls from New Delhi created a mobile app that provides a better way to dispose of electronic waste in an eco-friendly way
  4. Aparna Krishnan, a 21-year-old blockchain entrepreneur and co-founder of Mechanism Labs, the world’s first open source blockchain research lab, was named a Thiel Fellow
  5. Shriya Nevatia launched her cohort-based program for female founders, The Violet Society, building a community of women and non-binary people who are the tech leaders of tomorrow

Sharing Strength through Courage and Honesty

  1. Padma Lakshmi shared a heart-wrenching narrative about how she was raped when she was 16, a sign of strength around the time of the Ford/Kavanaugh hearings
  2. Singer Vidya Vox shared a beautifully honest video of her life story, opening up about her struggles with mental health, abusive father and more
  3. Facing cancer, Chef Fatima Ali penned a Note to Self of the personal reflections of a woman who still has so much to offer to the world

So there you have it, our inaugural Year in Review of South Asian women. This list is by no means exhaustive – we know there are so many more amazing women out there who have achieved incredible things this year and that many of the achievements above transcend categories. Please feel free to share with us any other awesome moments we didn’t include on this list – we love supporting our tribe.

And if we may, we’ll add one more that’s not on the list above: the launch of Shakti Collaborative in October. We’re so humbled by the raw, courageous and inspiring stories of the many South Asian women we’ve worked with and thank you all for your continued support. Because of you, we’re able to see the impact we can have by inspiring more openness, truth, and love in the South Asian community. Cheers to a great 2019 – we can’t wait to share what we have in store.


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