AWA: Theresa May and the cellulite-busting underwear

The new home secretary has been a long-time supporter of the Asian Women of Achievement awards, which celebrate the contribution of Asian women across British business, professional and cultural life. Last night (May 19, 2010), in her new Cabinet role, she was the star attraction, as this morning’s headlines show:

The Daily Mail focused mainly on her shoes...

Then the Mail took a look at her sari...

Finally, a word about the winners.

Interestingly, May highlighted her commitment to entrepreneurialism in a speech, before presenting the award for Entrepreneur of the Year to Shazia Awan, Conservative party candidate and founder of Peachy Pink, the cellulite-busting underwear brand (yes, really). The home secretary reminded the audience that, if British women started businesses at the same rate as American women, we’d have 650,000 more businesses.

This looks set to be a big theme for May, who also carries the Minister for Women responsibiltiies.

Dazzling talent was on display at the awards, attended by Princess Badiya Bint El Hassan and Princess Michael of Kent. Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, made a great speech advocating basic “kindness” in all our interactions and transactions. Newly crowned “Business Woman of the Year” Farah Ramzan Golant, CEO of advertising giant AMV, got one of the biggest reactions of the night, telling Dragons’ Den star James Caan, “I, sir, am no-one’s investment”.

One of the most moving sections was the presentation of the Global Empowerment Award to Dr Swati Piramal, the first woman  president of the Indian Chamber of Commerce, Assocham, in the organisation’s 90-year history. On appointment, she immediately appointed 100 women to chair the chamber’s sub-committees (the 100 incumbent men became co-chairmen!).

Dr Piramal has has an extraordinary career. In 1988, she and her husband Ajay acquired a tiny medical business, Nicholas Laboratories. Over the past 22 years, they have built the Piramal Group into a 10,000-employee organisation. She spoke powerfully about her, and India’s aspiration, to create effective new drug treatments for the world’s medical conditions.

Concluding the evening, which was headline-sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, Chief Inspector Shindo Kaur Barquer received the Chairman’s Award, recognising her achievements in becoming the most senior Asian female officer in the police force.

For its kaleidoscopic recognition of enterprise and diversity, and as simply a fantastically glamorous and uplifting night out, the Asian Women of Achievement Awards is hard to beat. Roll on next year…

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