As one of the few men at an event showcasing the power and influence of women in a 21st century, even the Commander-in-Chief of the United States was clearly overawed.

When addressing the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington this week U.S. President Barack Obama fumbled and dropped the Presidential seal behind the podium. However he recovered quickly, quipping, “That’s all right, all of you know who I am. But I’m sure there’s somebody back there that’s really nervous right now.”

The event, organised by Fortune, honoured ten women small-business entrepreneurs who joined 400 of the world’s most influential women leaders in business, philanthropy, government, education and the arts for panel discussions, on-stage interviews and interactive sessions over the course of three days.

The summit brought together an array of the most influential and well-known women leaders across different industries, including notable persons of Indian origin such as Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon, Padmasree Warrior of Cisco Systems, Sonal Shah, Director, Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation at the White House and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, formerly of Google’s Asia-Pacific and Latin American operations, and currently CEO of fashion and shopping network, Polyvore.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also addressed the attendees, and in touching upon some of the important women’s groups around the world she mentioned in particular, an Indian organisation. Ms. Clinton said, “Last year in Mumbai, I visited a shop owned and operated by women selling crafts and textiles, most of whom come from the very lowest socioeconomic stratum, all of whom are organised through one of the most effective women’s organisations in the world, the Self-Employed Women’s Association.” She added that she had worked with SEWA for many years and witnessed the transformation that banding together has catalysed in individual women’s lives.

Obama lauds Buffet

Mr. Obama also tipped his hat to one of the few other men at the event and, as it happened, a powerful one in his own right — billionaire investment guru, Warren Buffet. To Mr. Buffet, the President said, “I understand that even though he is a man, he has been invited back year after year because he knows that the surest path to success is to surround yourself with brilliant women. He’s a smart guy.”

While Mr. Obama outlined some of the key steps that his administration had taken to support women’s education and their activities in the sphere of entrepreneurship, the Summit itself served as a springboard to community-support activity. This included a scheme to mentor 75 Washington-area public high school students in an innovative speed-dating-style mentoring model.


8 Indian companies on Fortune 500 listJuly 11, 2010