BY Alison Bellamy
To mark upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8, Asian Sunday is naming its Top 10 most influential Asian Women in the UK.
Across all sectors of business, politics, achievement and contribution to society, we have picked our worthy winners in what was a difficult task.
The list is in no particular order. But we think all the women mentioned are influential, inspiring and deserving of recognition. We have also included our long list, giving those who nearly made it, a well-deserved mention.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, 44, a former Conservative MP and former Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs until resigning in 2014. She is now seated in the House of Lords. The lawyer formerly co-chaired the Conservative Party. She was brought up in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in a working class family.
She was the first female Muslim to attend Cabinet and at her first ever Downing Street meeting, wore a traditional South Asian shalwar kameez.
She resigned from Government saying she was no longer able to support the ‘morally indefensible’ policy on the escalation of violence in the Israel-Gaza conflict.
Bushra Nasir, 63, CBE, was the first Muslim female head teacher in the UK, working at Plashet School in London,
before retiring in 2012.
The award winning teacher came to England from Pakistan when she was eight. She turned around a failing school, which was later named in a report as one of ‘Ofsted’s 12 Outstanding Schools – excelling against the odds’.
In 2009 she was named in the top 10 Muslim Power List, by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
She is a former president of the Muslim Teachers’ Association and was awarded a CBE for services to education in 2005 and was named Head teacher of the Year in 2012. She was a special advisor to former Prime Minister Tony Blair after the London 7/7 bombings. Nasir continues to work in education mentoring headteachers.
Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith was appointed chief executive of facilities management company Mitie Group in March 2007. During the decade she spent at Mitie, the firm saw a £1.5bn rise in turnover.
She joined a small number of women holding the position of chief executive in the FTSE 250 and is the first Asian woman to be appointed in such a role. She was awarded a CBE in 2012 for services to business and promoting diversity. In 2015 Ruby was made a life peer after supporting David Cameron and George Osbourne’s public spending. She is also chair of the Women’s Business Council.
Priti Patel, 43, is a Conservative MP for Witham, Essex since 2010. Her parents are of Gujurati origin. As a
minister of state for employment, she tackled education and youth unemployment. Patel named five inspirational teenagers in the 2016 Premiership Rugby’s inaugural HITZ awards, which helped increase young people’s resilience, self-reliance and confidence giving skills to get back into education, apprenticeship and employment.
She also stands up for the gender pay gap saying: “It’s a step in the right direction to helping women, especially mums, achieve their ambitions”.
Bobbie Cheema-Grubb, 49, is a judge of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice and has made history as the first Asian woman to serve as a high court judge in the UK. She has presided over high profile cases. As a Sikh teenager in a Punjabi family growing up in Leeds, she wanted to be an astronaut while attending her local state school. She is described in Chambers Bar UK as a “well-respected” barrister who “relishes complex and demanding cases”. Grubb’s role has highlighted the lack of diversity and she is a role model for Asian women and minority ethnic candidates to join judiciary. Grubb says: “I loved arguing and trying to persuade someone else that they were wrong. I liked the fact that in law there are rules which have to be worked within but which give real opportunity for flair.”
Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize aged just 17 in 2014. The Pakistani-born
schoolgirl was shot in the head when she was 15 by Taliban, but survived against the odds.
She was targeted while on a bus, for defending her rights to education and had earlier written a blog for the BBC titled ‘Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl’.
She accepted her Nobel Peace Prize after the committee acknowledged her “heroic struggle” for girls’ rights to an education.
Her memoir ‘I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World,’ is a best seller. Malala has continued to speak out despite increased Taliban threats.
The Malala Fund invests in early stage girls’ education in poor countries. She addressed the United Nations on her 16th birthday and remains an inspiration to millions around the globe. She now lives in the UK.
Professor Geeta Nargund is a pioneer if the field of fertility. She is the award-winning medical director of CREATE Fertility. She is also a senior consultant gynaecologist and lead consultant for reproductive medicine services at St George’s Hospital, London. She is an advisor for national and international charities promoting women’s health, education and development. Prof Nargund has published lots of articles in the field of reproductive medicine. She is a pioneer in the field of Natural and Mild IVF and Advanced Ultrasound Technology and is an accredited trainer for Infertility and Gynaecological Ultrasound special skills. She also campaigns for fertility education in Schools.
Nusrat Pinky Lilani, CBE, is founder and CEO of Women of the Future and the Asian Women of Achievement
Awards. Lilani is a food guru, author, motivational speaker and internationally acclaimed champion for women. She organises a number of awards recognising influential women and leaders and also founded the Inspirational Women’s Network. Lilani sits on the advisory boards of Global Diversity Practice and Sapphire Partners. She is a patron of Frank Water, a charity that partners grassroots organisations in India to provide safe water. She is a British Red Cross Tiffany Circle Ambassador, a powerful group of women leaders and philanthropists. In 2006 Lilani was presented with a lifetime achievement award at the CBI First Women Awards. In 2012, she was named as Woman Entrepreneur of the Year at the Indus Entrepreneurs UK Gala Awards.
Lilani was listed on the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Power List of 100 most powerful women in the UK in 2013. She was awarded an OBE in the 2007 New Year Honours for services to charity and a CBE in the Birthday Honours 2015 for services to women in business.
Shivvy Jervis has been voted as one of the top 100 people ‘making digital Britain tick’. She is a presenter and head of digital media at Telefonica and an aspirational role model to young women and techies everywhere. The former TV reporter is creator and presenter of popular technology series Digital Futures. She curates a global innovation blog and writes for the Huffington Post. Soul icon James Brown called her one of the ‘greatest ideas’ of the broadcasting world. Jervis is a Britain’s Asian Women of Achievement award winner, Women of the Future & First Women awards’ finalist and been named to Innotribe’s fin-tech power list.
Adeeba Malik MBE Pakistan born Malik is the deputy chief executive of Bradford based QED Foundation, which
works with ethnic minorities to eradicate poverty, disadvantage and discrimination. The former teacher was awarded the CBE last year by the Queen for her services as a British Muslim woman.
She was also awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to ethnic minority businesses. She has held many positions board level appointments including British Waterways, Yorkshire Forward and the Advisory Board on Naturalisation and Immigration. Malik says discrimination, poverty and various forms of inequalities are still major issues which need to be tackled: “We must create an opportunity for everyone”. In 2005 she was appointed Chair of the National Ethnic Minority Business Forum and became a commissioner for the Women and Work Commission. She was made an ambassador for the Hashoo Foundation, a Pakistan based charity.
Want to let us know of someone special who has been an inspiration or influence in your life? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us why!
The Asian Sunday’s Most Influential Women long list
Mishal Husain, 42, is a British-Pakistani news presenter and anchor for the BBC
Naseem Malik is former commissioner of the Independent Police Complaints Commission working on high profile cases and is judge of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunals.
Tasmin Ahmed-Sheikh SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire elected 2015, solicitor and former actress.
Naz Shah Labour MP for Bradford West elected 2015
Meena Patak OBE, Indian born married into the Patak food family and helped expand the business.
Salma Yaqoob, 44, former leader of the Respect Party a is now the head of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition and a spokeswoman for Birmingham Central Mosque
Rushanara Ali Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow elected 2010
Farida Gibbs award winning entrepreneur and role model, businesswoman, recruitment and IT specialist.
Baroness Usha Kumari Prashar CBE, is a cross bench member of the House of Lords and has served as a director or chairman of a variety of public and private sector organisations, including appoitment as chairman of the Judicial Appointments Comission in 2005
Meena Patak OBE, Indian born who married into the Patak food family and helped to greatly expand the business