From Republican Party presidential aspirant Nikki Haley to leading woman owned investment firm founder Geeta Aiyer, 10 Indian American women have made it to 2023 Forbes 50 Over 50 list of entrepreneurs, investors, inventors and artists.
“All of them—200 in total, spread across four categories—are changing the world,” says Forbes of the women on its third annual list — “a group of people whose collective power—literally—stretches from the deep sea to outer space.”
Nikki Haley, 51, is featured in the Impact list of change makers with three others.
In February of 2023, Haley announced her intent to become the Republican party’s candidate for US president.
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley became the first Indian American to serve in a presidential cabinet when she was sworn in as US ambassador to the United Nations in 2017.
She served as governor of South Carolina from 2010 to 2014. Of the 117 governors in South Carolina’s history, she is the only woman and only person of color to have led the state.
Haley grew up in South Carolina and graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
Sarita Mohanty, 53, President & CEO, The SCAN Foundation
In 2021, at 50, Sarita Mohanty became the second CEO and president of The SCAN Foundation, a California-based healthcare nonprofit focused on improving care for older adults through policy, impact investing and grantmaking.
Mohanty came to the foundation from Kaiser Permanente, where she served as vice president of care coordination for Medicaid and vulnerable populations.
At Kaiser, she led the development of Thrive Local, a referral network of health systems, government agencies and community groups that provide social services, including housing, food and utilities.
She completed medical school at Boston University and residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She holds an M.P.H. from Harvard University and an M.B.A. from UCLA.
Ghazal Qureshi, 54, Founder & CEO, UpBrainery Technologies
In 2020, just after she turned 51, Ghazal Qureshi founded UpBrainery Technologies. Her goal is to expand online education through AI, machine learning and a neuroscience-backed curriculum.
Within months of its launch, the startup formed partnerships with Whataburger, Nasdaq and the Girl Scouts.
In 2022, the Department of Defense awarded the company a $5 million contract for the use of its Career and Technical Education (CTE) tech platform in military middle schools.
Today, UpBrainery offers a curriculum that exceeds 10,000 hours and a reach that spans 13 countries.
In 2011, Qureshi founded IDEA Lab Kids, a franchise that allows kids aged four to 14 to explore the STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) via online and in-person programming.
S. Mona Sinha, 58, Global Executive Director, Equality Now
In 2023, at 57, S. Mona Sinha became global executive director of Equality Now, an NGO that has advocated for the rights and protections of women and girls around the world since 1992.
She started her career in the corporate world and now applies learnings from Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Unilever to scale Equality Now’s mission-driven initiatives.
At Equality Now, she has succeeded in reforming rape laws in the Latin America and Caribbean region and child marriage laws in Africa and the Middle East.
Sinha has chaired boards for the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition, Breakthrough and Women Moving Millions (WMM). To date, WMM has mobilized $1 billion in aid for women and girls.
She additionally serves on the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum board.
Sinha grew up in Kolkata, India, and developed an interest in humanitarian efforts while volunteering at Mother Teresa’s orphanage in the city. She came to the US in 1985 to attend Smith College.
Author Alka Joshi, 65, is featured in the Artists list.
In 2020, at 62, Alka Joshi published her debut novel, The Henna Artist. She began writing the book in 2010, but the ten years of work paid off: It became a global phenomenon, hitting the New York Times bestseller list and translated into 29 languages.
Within a year and a half of publication, Netflix announced it would develop The Henna Artist into a television series starring Frida Pinto.
Joshi published two more books in 2021 and 2023, and has a contract with Harper Collins to produce two more by 2025.
Four decades after immigrating to the US, Joshi says her passion to inform the world about India through historical fiction took root in her 50s, when she traveled back to her birth country with her mother.
The Henna Artist was inspired by Joshi’s mother, who had an arranged marriage at 18. Joshi wrote a protagonist who lived in an alternate reality—one where a woman like her mom could live independently.
READ: 4 Indian American businesswomen on Forbes’ 2023 list (July 6, 2023)
Monica Jain, 60, Founder, Fish 2.0 Ventures
In 2013, at age 50, Monica Jain merged her passion for the ocean with her expertise in finance to cofound Fish 2.0 Ventures and grow the blue economy–businesses that improve the health of the world’s seas and marine life.
Fish 2.0 has connected more than 600 entrepreneurs in the seafood industry to a network of 500 private investors and facilitated investments of over $400 million.
Jain, who also founded and heads a consulting firm called Manta Consulting, works directly with Fish 2.0 businesses to advise them and help them scale.
She was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood in 2016 for her impact on the industry.
Geeta Aiyer, 65, President & Founder, Boston Common Asset Managemen
A finance executive with over 30 years of experience and a passion for social justice, Geeta Aiyer founded Boston Common Asset Management, a majority women- and employee-owned sustainable investment firm, in 2003. She is the firm’s president and has AUM of $5 billion.
In 2015, Aiyer became the first U.S. asset manager to serve on the board of UN PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment), which encourages investors to adopt sustainable investing.
It has been her aim to work on sustainable and inclusive investment. Her portfolio has invested in Owens Corning, a manufacturer of energy-saving insulation, roofing and fiberglass composites. The firm has also invested in Carrier Global Corp, a global leader in making sustainable building, air conditioning, and healthy solutions for homes.
READ: 7 Indian American women among Forbes ‘50 Over 50’ (October 7, 2022)
In 2013, Aiyer received the SRI Service Award, recognizing leadership and innovation in SRI (Sustainable, Responsible, Impact) investing.
Mala Gaonkar, 53, Founder, SurgoCap Partners
Mala Gaonkar founded SurgoCap Partners in 2022, a New York investment firm focused on disruptive technologies across broad industry categories.
On January 3, 2023, SurgoCap Partners began trading with an estimated $1.8 billion in trading under management. This marked the largest hedge fund launch led by a woman ever
Born in the US and raised in Bengaluru, India, Gaonkar founded the Surgo Foundation with Sema Sgaier in 2015 to invest in AI-powered technology that can solve global health problems.
Gaonkar has reserved $100 million of her fund’s AUM for smaller endowments, foundations and nonprofit focusing on underserved communities or climate change.In her spare time, Gaonkar loves to write. Her short stories have appeared in Catamaran, Carolina Quarterly, and American Short Fiction.
Ranji Nagaswami, 59 | Chief Strategy and Chief Commercial Officer, Strategic Value Partners
Ranji Nagaswami is the chief strategy and chief commercial officer of Strategic Value Partners, a global investment firm managing nearly $18 billion in private credit, distressed debt and private equity investments.
From 2010 to 2012, Nagaswami chaired the NYC Retirement System as chief investment advisor to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, overseeing the city’s pension funds.
In 2016, she became the founder and lead moderator for the Aspen Finance Leaders Fellowship (FLF). Today there are 125 Aspen Finance Fellows around the world.
Nagaswami has served on the Yale University investment committee, the UAW VEBA investment advisory council, and the Curtis Institute investment advisory council.
READ: Forbes ranks Kamala Harris as world’s second most powerful woman (December 20, 2021)
Purnima Puri, 51, Governing Partner and Head of Liquid Credit, HPS Investment Partners
Purnima Puri is a governing partner at HPS Investment Partners, a $100 billion-AUM global investment firm. Puri leads the company’s $22 billion liquid credit business.
Under her leadership, the firm launched new investment vehicles in 2022, including credit funds that capitalize on market volatility and new partnerships with pension clients, including California-based Fresno County Employees’ Retirement Association and State of Hawaii Employees’ Retirement System.
Before joining HPS in 2007, Puri was a principal at Redwood Capital Management, a credit opportunities hedge fund. Prior to that, she worked at Goldman Sachs on both its credit arbitrage desk and principal investment areas.
Puri serves on the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University, the Board of Dean’s Advisors of Harvard Business School, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ financial sector advisory council.