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  • Writer's pictureShikha Gianchandani

5 of the Most Influential South Asian Women of 2021

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

When I first started writing the #Trending column, I often gravitated towards more light-hearted content, where I knew it would be slightly easier to seek out South Asian representation. I avoided looking at any “Top 10” or “Top 100” lists by any mainstream publications because I knew that there wouldn't be any genuine representation.

However, whilst representation across different sectors undoubtedly needs to be more heavily emphasised, some phenomenal women have been elected as the top emerging leaders of tomorrow. Five South Asian women were nominated on the Time100 Next List in 2021, compared with just two in 2020. So without further ado, let’s talk about 5 honorees that made it onto the TIME100 Next list:

Category: Leaders

The Indian-American lawyer was at the forefront of banning Donald Trump on Twitter in early January. As Twitter’s chief legal officer and general counsel, Vijaya is one of the powerful executives for the company and has spearheaded multiple important initiatives such as banning political advertisement and adding labels COVID-19 related content. Her influence is of paramount importance in minimizing misinformation and harassment on the

platform. She’s currently part of a team that’s rebuilding Twitter’s Application Programming Interface (API), which will give the public access to features to make it easier to listen and analyze the public conversation.

Category: Advocates

Shikha Gupta’s work demonstrates that there’s always a way of having an impact – even when there’s a pandemic going on. This medical Doctor is the executive director of the biggest organization in the US, that’s supplying front-line workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) - Get Us PPE. The organization was launched last year when a GoFundMe page was started by the non-profit, where $41,000 was raised. By being at the intersection of medicine, equity, policy, and tech, Shikha’s organization’s efforts have helped provide over 6.5 million units of PPE.

Category: Innovators

During the second lockdown, quite a few of us went through a phase where we got sucked into some serious Netflix-ing. Aside from bingeing “Tiger King”, I remember being sucked into a conversation about the rise and domination of social media and the exploitation of our personal information, after watching “The Social Dilemma.” Lina Khan is a legal scholar specializing in antitrust movements, which means she’s at the forefront of keeping these tech giants accountable. Lina’s been paving the way for the modern anti­trust movement since 2017. She established herself as a public figure in the field when her book, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”, was published whilst she was pursuing Law at Yale. Currently, she’s a full-time legal scholar, and also a professor of law at Columbia University.

Category: Innovators

If you’re a true Pardesi stan, you might have seen a mini-write up about Sohla in our Valentine's Day guide. She was a chef on the famous Youtube channel/magazine, Bon Appetite. Bon Apetit was reported to have failed its employees of color by displaying them for diversity and not compensating them enough, which led to the company’s demise. As the chef was one of the first people to speak out for herself and her colleagues, toxic work culture in the food industry that has previously gone unnoticed is being talked about more openly. Vulture also did an amazing write-up on Sohla’s story, which you can also find here.

Category: Phenoms

Before taking the lead in Mindy Kaling's show, “Never Have I Ever”, the now 18-year-old Maitreyi Ramakrishnan had done no television work at all, or even acting of any kind. Despite this, she beat 15,000 people during the audition, and her depiction of Devi, a confident-but-dorky, teen coping with her father's death, a strained relationship with her mother, took the audience by storm. Since then, Maitreyi has become a household name and a symbol for what modern good South Asian representation looks like, and the effect it can have on people.

Last year there were two South Asian women featured on the list - Kamala Harris (America’s current Vice President) and Bilkis Dadi (Indian Activist). With five South Asian women being selected for the Time100 Next list they have an opportunity to elect a candidate for next year, which will hopefully create a snowball effect where we’ll start seeing even more representation.

That's it from me this week! Join us again next week for some more #Trending content to come out of the diaspora.


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