Sarath Shyam

Women’s Education in India has a fascinating history. A name that stands tall among its leaders is Savitribai Phule, India’s first woman teacher who opened the first school for girls in Bhide Wada in Pune. Married at the tender age of 9, she was a courageous woman who fought a strongly patriarchal society for women’s rights when women were not considered equal. Following her footsteps, the country has produced many exceptional women leaders. However, even after decades of struggle for equality, women’s leadership in the Indian higher education sector remains a burning topic of discussion.

Interestingly, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), despite being considered a leader in political and social discourse, took almost five decades to appoint its first women vice-chancellor. While the prestigious IITs and IISERs have never had a woman director, AIIMS’ had only one female director, that too, more than 30 years ago. It is the story of most Indian universities. Out of 54 central universities, only 7 have female vice-chancellors. Only 52 of the 437 state universities, 10 of the 125 deemed universities, and 23 of the 388 private universities have female vice-chancellors.

Say you live in a progressive society, but you cannot deny that women face a glass ceiling when they try to push forward. However, some people in our country have fought the war Savitribai Phule had fought to become the beacon of hope for the women aspiring for leadership roles. We celebrate their success by telling some of the untold stories our panel of experts selected as the “10 Most Inspiring Women Leaders in Indian Higher Education.” This edition aims to bring to light the thoughts, insights, and journeys of women in the sector. We feature Aishwarya Nitish, Pro Chairman, Narasu’s Sarathy Institute of Technology (NSIT), on the cover. She is a computer engineer by education, and her experience in administration and management of her family business holdings has made her a critical fact-finder who can identify areas of development with expertise and drive towards success.

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