37 Women Honored at AIA Celebration

Ritu Jha-

More than 300 people rose to give a standing ovation when an award was given posthumously to Geetha Ramakrishnan, the former chairperson of the San Francisco chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). She died May 10, 2022.

Geetha Ramakrishnan’s cousin Subadhra Nachiyaar received the honor on behalf of the former ICAI SF chairperson.

Ramakrishnan and 36 other women were honored at the annual NAARI Celebration of Women, an event organized by the Association of Indo-Americans and the Indian Consulate in San Francisco on March 15 in Sunnyvale, Calif.

AIA is a non-profit that promotes creative freedom to all communities that identify with India and the Indian diaspora. It represents 48 community organizations in Northern California.

Ramakrishnan’s cousin Subadhra Nachiyaar received the honor on behalf of the former ICAI SF chairperson.

Speaking about the award at the event, Nachiyaar told indica, “It provided a chance for our family to reflect on Geetha’s lasting influence, her dedication to mentoring others, her ability to dream big and rally others to bring that vision to fruition. Thank you for the opportunity to celebrate her life with a renewed sense of joy.”

ICAI San Francisco team at NAARI’s event to show their support to Geetha Ramakrishnan.

Vish Arunachalam, Founder Chairman & Director ICAI San Francisco who had worked with Ramakrishnan at PricewaterhouseCoopers during the early part of their career sharing her thoughts told indica, “The Naari celebration of women event allowed us to honor and fondly remember our dear friend and colleague, late CA Geetha Ramakrishnan. As the first woman chairperson of ICAI San Francisco Chapter in the USA, her contributions played a key role in expanding our USA presence and promoting gender diversity across ICAI USA chapters. All of our eleven USA-based chapters, including the forthcoming one in Florida proudly have women leaders in their management committees.”

Vijaya Aasuri, the key host of the NAARI event who represents AIA told indica that the team had decided to institute awards this year.

“The good part is we didn’t decide the awardees,” she said. “AIA is a group of 48 organizations that work together. Each of them nominated the achievers from their respective communities. One person cannot decide all those whose achievements deserve to be recognized. Because each person’s access is limited mostly to their communities. If it’s from your community, then you know who’s the person who has made a difference. That’s made it a classy, authentic event.”

Vijaya Aasuri with Ramesh Konda hosting AIA’s NAARI event on March 15 in Sunnyvale, Calif.

She said that while women bring things together, whether in the family or the community, particularly in the Bay Area they wear even more hats, including those of housewives and entrepreneurs.

“In any event or function, it’s always the women’s drive that pulls the family, and the community together,” she said. “That’s why we thought it’s befitting to pay a tribute to women and their achievements on behalf of the whole community.”

Aasuri showered praises on Prathima Reddy, the consul general’s wife, and her frank replies to questions, explaining that “she shared her experiences and taught us all from the heart.” AIA joined hands with the Consulate General of India for the first time this year.

The event also had speakers Krithika Bhat, chief information officer at Pure Storage; Assemblymember Gail Pellerin, representing the 28th California Assembly District; Susan Ellenberg, the Santa Clara County board president; Dr. Anjali Gulati, cardiologist and president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin; and Prathima Reddy, wife of Indian Consul general in San Francisco shared their experience being a women achiever and shared their wisdom.

Bhat said that in her years of relocating to multiple countries, she learned the power of networking, even though she lacked the social media tools available today. She said that just in the last four years, she has joined at least three women’s organizations. She said it was not only about getting support but giving it.

Besides the professional, she said, there were strong personal networks, too.

“My husband, Girish, is my biggest cheerleader, and we’ve been a tag team. We’ve been married for 33 years, and I couldn’t have done it without his support.”

Dr. Gulati also spoke of personal networks, saying, “Whatever I do today in my life, and in my career, I owe my parents and my brother and sister for encouraging me every step of the way. And then I met my husband Anil, who has supported me all the time through my night calls, day calls, and medical emergencies.”

But she stressed the role that women in particular play.

“If you think about it, there are men and women in your life who have made you go ahead, but it’s the women who have really helped you move forward in life,” she said. “It’s the sisterhood. Make sure that you have a sisterhood, a sorority, because they will stand by you for every single thing. You have to be very strong, and have a support system, because by yourself, how much can you fight? We have to do a balancing act. Men, and women have their challenges in this world. We cannot keep playing the women’s card. We have to find what we like to do and do it well. Your work will get noticed.”

NAARI award winner Lakshmi Pratury, an entrepreneur, curator, speaker, and the founder-CEO of INK, told indica, “The award is as important as the community that we bring along. Awards are great, but I love seeing the other women and finding out about so many women in so many fields, and what they’re doing. We are all in our own little bubble most of the time. A lot has changed in the past 20-30 years. There is a lot more variety of fields like politics, art, history, and language. There are so many things other than just technology and medicine and there are a lot of people in humanitarian work and political fields, which is wonderful to see.”

Another awardee, Vasudha Patel, who runs a preschool program and is the vice president of the Gujarati Cultural Association of the Bay Area, told indica. “Getting the award is very encouraging and it’s also very motivating to see so many women in different fields achieving different goals, thriving and also doing their fair share in the community. I feel an additional responsibility towards the community. It’s very important to make sure that you keep the community thriving by making sure that the girls and the boys get the right education. It’s not just our girls, we also have to enable the boys to do everything that the girls can do.”

Priya Ponnapalli, senior director of engineering at Google, who attended the event, feels that there are lots of opportunities for women in tech to receive NAARI awards.

She told indica, “Tech is one of those industries that impacts all of us. You want technology to work for everyone, so you want very diverse perspectives represented. I strongly encourage women and people from all walks of life to come and be part of it.”

According to Latha Koneru, former program manager at Google and founder of Ulavacharu & Ulavacharu Tiffins, had come to support her friend, “Events like NAARI are very encouraging. It’s good to provide a platform to honor and recognize the work that’s been done.”

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