Women 2016: Navigating the Corridors of Power


From left: Latha Ramchand, Tanaz Choudhury, Indrani Goradia, Stuti Trehan Patel & Ellen Cohen

By Fatima Mohiuddin

HOUSTON: Daya, a Houston-based nonprofit organization that supports South Asian women affected by domestic violence, held their annual seminar on Saturday September 24, at the University of St. Thomas. The program started with a welcome speech by Viji Raman, one of the founding members who gave a brief history of the organization starting from its humble origins to how it has grown to an established and respected organization. She reminded the audience that this tremendous growth was made possible solely by the generous support of the community and other charitable foundations.


Raji Tarakad (seated) with Daya Board Members Sesh Bala, Vatsala Bhaskaran and Viji Raman

The seminar focused on important issues facing women in modern society; from salary negotiation to work life balance. Supported by the Simmons Foundation, this year’s theme, WOMEN 2016: Navigating the Corridors of Power, brought 5 incredible women leaders together to share their experiences and insights. Moderator Indrani Goradia, founder of Indrani’s Light Foundation and life-long advocate for women, led participants through candid discussions about several challenges facing women today.


Board Members Shaila Patel and Sheela Rao with Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen

Among the speakers was Mayor Pro Temp, Ellen Cohen who discussed the challenges of being a female leader. She shared her personal story of triumph against breast cancer and the importance of advocating for oneself.  Her insight that “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu” was met by cheers from the audience. Dean Latha Ramchand of the University of Houston, Bauer College of Business spoke about the power of negotiation, guiding participants through case studies related to salary and career negotiations. Dean Ramchand advised participants to always look within themselves to define their values and fight for what’s important.  Judge Stuti Trehan Patel spoke candidly about the challenges of creating a work-life balance. She gave the audience excellent advice on building long term plans in order to accomplish various goals.  She also spoke about the importance of making small changes and investing in oneself and one’s relationships to result in positive changes for the individual and society.  Finally entrepreneur and CEO Tanaz Choudhury, rounded out the group of speakers by leading the audience through a motivating mantra and speaking candidly about her life experiences in developing a positive, powerful image. All the speakers had important and critical messages for women as they seek to play multiple roles in our society.


Indrani Goradia (moderator) and Rachna Khare (Executive Director of Daya)

During lunch, Indrani Goradia led the audience and speakers through a very interactive panel discussion.  The audience was given feedback on the many hard choices working women face with every day; from letting go of mommy guilt to negotiating salary increases in the workplace without being apologetic or aggressive.

In her closing remarks, Daya’s new Executive Director, Rachna Khare, thanked participants, supporters and speakers and emphasized the importance of engaging in community discussions, especially those around difficult topics that will aid in breaking barriers for women in society.  Since 1996, Daya has supported South Asian clients who are trying to break the cycle of domestic and sexual violence through counseling, case management and advocacy. Through events such as their annual seminar, Daya promotes community awareness and prevention.

To learn more about Daya’s services and to find out how to become a supporter or volunteer, please visit www.dayahouston.org. If you or anyone you know could benefit from Daya services, please contact the confidential helpline at 713-981-7645.