Chicago IL: The Women’s Empowerment Campaign (WE) hosted a power-packed awards gala on Saturday March 2nd 2019 at the Meadows Club in Rolling Meadows, IL. The Women’s Empowerment Campaign was designed to create the largest networking & empowerment platform for Indian women in Chicagoland. The top goals of the group include supporting entrepreneurship in the Indian women community, showcasing & highlighting women business-owners and professionals, raising awareness of existing resources & services in the community, celebrating successful Indian women & supporting women leaders in the community. The initiative was founded in November 2017 and currently has 1500+ members. They have executed many successful events since inception including the first ever women’s business awards, women’s business expo, women’s job fair and two networking events.
The principals of the campaign include founders Shital Daftari, Dr Anuja Gupta & Rita Singh who are prominent businesswomen & community members in Chicagoland. “We wanted to start a platform that increased the recognition of Indian women commensurate with our contribution to the economy” says Dr. Anuja Gupta who is a physician and real estate developer of Verandah Retirement Community. Shital Daftari who is an e-commerce business owner of Saris and Things had a different perspective, “We wanted to do showcase how powerful Indian women were. I also wanted to inspire women to take the first step to living a life of their dreams and reaching their highest potential”. Rita Singh who is an IT business owner and also has experience in show business says, “Judge a country by the place it gives its women” quoting Mahatma Gandhi.
The Chairperson of the gala was Jayshree Patel 2018 chairwoman of the advisory board of New York Life Insurance. Jayshree competed with 1200 agents nationwide to win the honor. It was the first time in the 183 year old history of the company that the award went to a female and an Indian. Jayshree was accompanied by her husband Nilam Patel also with New York Life, Ranga Srinivasan head of south Asian markets New York Life and Mike Gavin the managing partner of the Chicago office of New York Life Insurance. “I wanted to pursue a career in insurance because it helped to create real value in the lives of people served. I felt I was doing a very purposeful thing and it never felt like a job” says Jayshree Patel. “The south Asian market is a very important one for New York Life. Top achievers like Jayshree do deserve due recognition by the community” said Ranga Srinivasan head of south Asian markets.
The Awards Gala felicitated top women in the Indian community of Chicago. “Our goal with the awards was to showcase excellence in professionals and business owners of the Indian women community”, says Dr Anuja Gupta. The women felicitated included Dr Asha Oroskar CEO Orochem Technologies, Divya Sarang an attorney & judge in Kane County, Ketki Shroff Steffen an attorney & judge in Cook County, Dr Sonia Mehta CEO Prime Health, Dr Rubina Dang founder SCARF, Ketki Parikh Founder Vachikam Films & South Asian Film Festival, Sabrina Hans founder SHE Events, Neha Gill CEO Apna Ghar, Rohini Dey owner of Vermilion Restaurant & Mini Dalawari who is the mother of a special needs child.
The Leadership Team of the initiative is a formidable list of the top community leaders in Chicagoland, selected by the founders for their varied experiences & networks. Shital Daftari says, “it was very important for us to select the right people for our leadership team. We handpicked each member from a very long list of qualified individuals who were leaders in their own ways in the community”. Dr. Anuja Gupta adds, “We wanted a representative from every major demographic group in Chicagoland”. Many women from the leadership team are from big organizations in Chicago including Uma Katiki who is 2017 Vice-President & 2018 President of the Chicago Andhra Association, Vidya Joshi Vice-President of Maharashtra Mandal Chicago & secretary of BMM, Aparna Ayyalaraju & Rajani Akurati who are Board Directors of the Telegu Tristate Association.
The list also includes women who have started their own commendable organizations including Chandini Duvuuri founder of an NGO for battered women, Promila Kumar founder of Sanjeevani, Rosey Bhasin founder of Connections By Rosey, Namitha Pai founder of Happy Feet, Sushma Bhanot founder of Share A Smile Chicago & Arshia Wajid founder of American Muslim Health Professionals. Many other women of the leadership team are accomplished professionals who are independent thinkers with great passion for womens causes, including Dr. Manjari Gambhir who is a practicing physician, Dr. Pooja Batra Sharma a Dentist, Dr. Tanvi Bhatt a Professor in Physical Therapy & Loni Sharma a Financial Advisor. Two very important team members are women who are actively working in the community in various organizations including Shree Guruswamy a social worker & volunteer at Sanjeevani, and Ratna Kapur from the United Punjabi Association.
In addition to the leadership team the group also has community partners which include women who are active in community service including Bhavana Modi, Farhana Bukhari, Vibha Dave, Nipa Shah. The Advisory Board members are Dr. Asha Oroskar founder & CEO of Orochem Labs, Smita Shah owner of Direct Floors, Anisha Shah owner of Shree Builders & Arlington Rentals & Madhoolica Dear past president of the Indian American Heritage Museum.
The gala was presented as a black-tie event with 600 guests including prominent business persons, community members, high-level public officials and the media. “Platforms like WE are a must towards our journey of gender parity” said Hon Consul General India Neeta Bhushan. The public officials included secretary of state Jesse White, mayors of many surrounding towns, state representatives, trustees and judges. “Women are half the electorate, half the votes and half the economy. They are the backbone of society” said Secretary Jesse White. The evening saw a performance by the famous Jesse White Tumblers a program he initiated to save 16500 inner city kids from drugs. The other entertainment for the evening included a fashion show by esteemed Indian designer Anita Dongre. Anita Dongre is the biggest fashion retailer of India with over 400 retail stores. The founders specifically wanted to align themselves with the Anita Dongre brand because of its women-empowerment angle. The brand has a big initiative called Grass Roots that empowers traditional artisans in rural India.