BURLINGTON, MA—The Indian community reacted with exhilaration and excitement to the crowning of Geeta Aiyer as 2014 Woman of the Year and honoring of 19 other finalists who received awards for excellence in their respective fields.
“Woman of The Year gala at the Marriott last week was a memorable event. The environment and ambience was heart-warming and rich in content,” said Puran Dang, a leader and a veteran of the Indian community. “Over the years INDIA New England annual events honoring the women have generated an electricity unseen before. This exposition of talents of women in New England area has proved that we are fortunate to have among us women who not only have succeeded in business, profession but also in service to humanity. Every woman in the list of twenty is serving the poor and the needy and also empowering other women. That was very heartening.”
In addition, these women are doing a fantastic job not only in their profession but also in helping other women who face the ills of domestic violence, discrimination and deprivations of various sorts.
“Twenty women nominated were all very distinguished and felt very honored to be in that list regardless whether they got the crown or not. In short, it was truly a grand celebration for all women,” Dang said. “Gandhi JI wrote in his newspaper “Navjeevan” that except in brutal force, women on all accounts were much more strong than men. They were strong in compassion, tolerance, service, bearing odds of all kinds, and giving the best to families and their community. We really saw this kind of strength at the event. Congratulations for a grand salute to women and appreciation of their talents and successes.
Your service to our community is deeply appreciated.”
Aiyer, the founder, president, and chief strategist of Boston Common Asset Management and a crusader against violence against women, was crowened 2014 Woman of the Year at the 12th Annual Woman of the Year Awards gala organized by INDIA New England News at the Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA, on June 5.
With a fervent passion for the environment and social justice, Aiyer has built a great business. Boston Common Asset Management, which she founded in 2003, now manages over $2 billion in assets. She has built a strong investment record and substantially improved the policies and practices of portfolio companies. In addition, Aiyer has founded two previous companies, Walden Capital Management and East India Spice, as well as an NGO, Direct Action for Women Now (DAWN).
Aiyer was honored with the 2013 SRI Service Award at the SRI (Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing) Conference and was the 2010 recipient of the Women’s Venture Fund’s Highest Leaf Award. In 2013, Boston Common received a Human Rights Award from Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project (PAIR) and was named one of the top 100 women-led firms in Massachusetts.
Desh Deshpande, one of the nation’s leading philanthropists, was the chief guest and gave awards to 20 outstanding women and finalists during the event, which was attended by more than 450 business and community leaders from across New England.
“I was very impressed with the sheer quantity and the breadth of leadership among women nominated for the award. I want to thank India New England News, Upendra Mishra and Manju Sheth for institutionalizing this annual event and recognizing and inspiring women,” Deshpande said. “All the nominees and the winner made me feel very proud about our community.”
Also, honored at the Woman of the Year Awards gala with a standing ovation was Sipra Shah, a Shishu Bharati veteran for nearly 35 years, who received INDIA New England News’ inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. Sushil Tuli, founder and president of Leader Bank, gave the award to Shah. The award was sponsored by Leader Bank.
“On behalf of Shishu Baharti, once again I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation for your recognition and bestowing our beloved principal Sipra ji with “Lifetime Achievement Award”. On behalf of Shishu Bharati I also would like to express to you that it was such a wonderful event that we all enjoyed with quite excitement and will cherish for years to come,” said Seshi R. Sompuram, president of Shishu Bharti. “Of course, while the suspense to hear the finalist of the “Woman of the year” was building, we all wondered and imagined what it would have been for the judges to choose one from so many, so accomplished, and so such a wonderful 20-finalists! we all sure wondered but though it was tough, the able judges with great wisdom have made their choice and it was so wonderful to see rest of the contestants graciously cheered and congratulated the winner.”
Gaugarin Oliver, an entrepreneur and president of TiE-Boston who served as the chairman of a panel of seven independent judges, said: “What impressed us the most about Geeta is her huge impact and ownership, not just in the business world, but also social activities. Her dedication, quick action, inspirational leadership and down to earth attitude are commendable. Picking 20 finalists from 295 nominations and then selecting a winner is daunting. The applicant pool was made of amazing women. I applaud India New England for the meticulous process, and the preparedness and thoughtful due diligence by the judges to accomplish this very important task.”
Dr. Manju Sheth, a community leader and the hostess and organizer of the Woman of the Year gala, said Woman of the Year is the most special event honoring women in New England for the past 12 years.
“Women have achieved so much in last 12 years. Nothing seems impossible anymore,” said Dr. Sheth. “We also changed the format of Woman of the Year this year have and taken it to a whole new level . It was heart-warming to see the overwhelming support from our community. Our first Lifetime Achievement Award to Sipra Shah was received extremely well. We had 20 outstanding women who were honored at the event and seven independent judges picked a very deserving winner in
Geeta Aiyer, who has achieved and given back so much to our community. I want to thank all our sponsors and supporters for helping us put together such an amazing red carpet event of the year.”
After being chosen Woman of the Year 2014, Aiyer said she was: “surprised, honored, humbled, touched, very happy.”
When asked what are her plans for women’s causes this year, she said: “Through my work at Boston Common Asset Management, we are working as shareholder, to have more women on corporate boards and in top management as we believe this diversity improves risk management and effectiveness in companies. Our goal is to have 30% women on boards! As a board member of YW Boston, support education and training to end racism and empower women in Boston, and through Ubuntu at Work, help create opportunity for women globally.”
Aiyer added: “Through my non-profit DAWN Worldwide, my focus is on gender based violence: we plan to deepen our work in caring for survivors, and prevention by engaging men, boys and civic society organizations. This year, I hope we move forward with our Media efforts, and begin the ambitious work of caring for survivors of egregious violence — gang rape, acid attacks, and child victims. My hope is also to change the Language around this vital set of issues, to raise the “respect” or “maryada” in our society, for India’s Largest Minority, which is Women!”
Mondira (Mandy) Deb Pant and Aditi Taylor, Boston’s two emerging leaders in business and technology, served as Masters of Ceremony of the Woman of the Year 2014 Awards Gala celebrations. Pant is Academic Research Director at Intel. Taylor is a Principal in the Boston office of Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Governance, Risk and Regulatory Services practice. Dr. Sheth, a physician at Lahey Health and a community leader and activist championing women’s rights and children’s education and health, served as the hostess of the evening.
The event is sponsored by TJ Maxx, Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare, Dr. Manju Sheth, the Boston Group, Leader Bank and Burlington Marriott. Supporting sponsor are Bombay Club, Boston Sound & Light Company, Alankar and Dyuti Majumdar & Associates.