The Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2014: The full shortlist revealed


Sonia Summan, international new business development professional, Arcadia Group

Sonia has worked in the fashion industry for the past 15 years and is currently head of new business development at Arcadia, the retailing group behind brands such as Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis. Last year Sonia became a professional and youth mentor, supporting and assisting people aged 11-19 from vulnerable backgrounds. She is also the marketing director for the City Sikhs network, an interfaith organisation dedicated to creating a positive change in society.

Karina Govindji, managing consultant, client development, Gallup 

Described as a “strong, smart, bold female executive”, Karina leads Gallup’s client service group across Europe and is a member of the firm’s management committee. Following the loss of a severely disabled child, Karina has been inspired to set up a support group for parents in similar circumstances.

Yoon Chang, sales, marketing and strategy director, Sodexo prestige sports, leisure and travel, Sodexo

Following roles at McKinsey & Company, a Korean SME and Dell, Yoon joined Sodexo UK & Ireland as strategy director of prestige and corporate services, becoming the only non-British member of the executive team and the only one of North Asian decent in a senior management position. Playing a critical role on the company’s Olympic Steering Committee for the London 2012 contract, she helped to place Sodexo and the UK service industry on the global centre stage. Yoon is now responsible for sales, marketing and strategy across the entire business.

Nazneem Grogan, technical director, LondonWaste

As technical director of LondonWaste, Nazneem is the only woman in the UK directly responsible for the operation of an energy-from-waste power station. Still only 37, she is already recognised as an energy expert at a national level and she has ambitions to use her skills to help reconcile society’s need for energy with protecting the sustainability of the planet.

Ritu Mohanka-Vedhara, vice-president EMEA & India global survey, Kenexa

Ritu is behind the success of technology firm Kenexa in EMEA: since she joined the company nine years ago, she has grown her business 20-fold. Promoted repeatedly based on significant business contribution and undisputed leadership skill, she has led from the front, winning a deserved reputation within Kenexa (and now IBM) as “an undisputed genius at building trust and relationships with key client stakeholders in order to win big deals”.

Kamal Parmar, director, Saints of Tarporley Services

Former book keeper Kamal made a bold decision in 2004: she decided to acquire a rundown petrol station in Cheshire and, without any experience in the petroleum industry, set about reviving it. She convinced petrol supplier Power Petroleum (part of Total Group) to sign a dealership contract with her and became the first dealer in the organisation to receive a 100 per cent forecourt audit rating. The petrol station now includes an off-licence and an environmentally-friendly car wash. Alongside running the petrol station, Kamal turned a run-down residential property into a thriving bed-and-breakfast, and started “Saints Indian Cuisine”, providing private and corporate catering services and take-away food.


Laura Chow, head of charitable programmes, RBS

Laura led the RBS Women of Tomorrow Campaign which introduced employees for the first time to the challenging issues being faced by people living in poverty across the world, including child marriage, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking. She also arranged for RBS to sponsor and host eight charities at the annual Trust Women’s conference where topics included honour killings and female genital mutilation. She is a powerful force to deliver change.

Valerie Dias, chief officer, risk and compliance, Visa Europe

First as CFO then chief risk officer, Valerie is the most senior woman in Visa Europe and a strong contributor to the company’s business success (turnover was €300m when she joined in 1993; it’s now €1.7bn). She mentors up to four employees every year and sits on the board of World Vision UK.

Sharmila Lakshmipathy, executive partner, IBM UK

Kolkata-born Sharmila joined IBM UK in 2005 as a finance analyst. Racing up the corporate ladder to become an executive partner, she is currently leading a large transformation project for one of the company’s top clients in Houston, Texas. In a career spanning 15 years, she has lived and worked in India, Japan, UK and the US. Outside of IBM, Sharmila supports education for under-privileged children through a charitable organisation in India.

Jean Liao, client director, Accenture

Jean Liao is a client director within Accenture’s life sciences practice, working across global top-15 pharmaceutical companies and currently responsible for a team of 40. She is the practice lead for corporate citizenship and an active mentor. She has been with Accenture since 2002.

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