Born in Bihar, Dame Asha's journey from a full-time housewife to being the CEO is truly inspirational

NRI Dame Asha Khemka in line for UK business women's award

Archana Venkatraman

Non-resident Indian and leading educationalist, Dame Asha Khemka has been announced as a finalist in the First Women Awards 2015 – a UK national awards programme honouring senior level business women and professionals.

NRI Dame Asha Khemka shortlisted for First Women's Awards 2015

Dame Asha - the principal and chief executive of West Nottinghamshire College Group, Mansfield, UK - has been shortlisted in the First Women of Public Service category. If she wins the title, Dame Asha will join hugely successful previous recipients including Nora Senior, executive chair of Weber Shandwick in the UK and Ireland, and Sarah Weir OBE, chief executive of The Legacy List.

Dame Asha said: “I feel honoured to be shortlisted for this award in the company of such esteemed women leaders from sectors as diverse as business, media, public service, manufacturing, engineering, and science and technology, to name just a few.

“It is further proof that colleges are now regarded as major businesses in their own right, and ones that make a significant contribution to our economy and to UK Plc.

Dame Asha's journey is truly inspirational -- born and raised in Sitamarhi, a small town in Bihar, she was married at the age of 15. She then moved to the UK in 1978 with her husband Shankar Khemka and three young children.

A full-time housewife for 20 years, Dame Asha had limited formal education and little understanding of the English language and British culture. But with dedication and determination, she built a progressive career in the UK from being a student to a principal and a chief executive of a College.

Today she is a leading figure in the world of education and skills. In 2014, NRI Khemka became the first Indian-born woman in 83 years to be awarded Damehood - the female-equivalent of a Knighthood. "I will never forget my Indian roots and will always be a proud Bihari," she had said when accepting the honour from HRH Prince of Wales.

She has also been honoured with the OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 2009.

Since joining the college in 2006, Dame Asha has collected a string of accolades including the National Jewel Award for Excellence in Healthcare and Education, the Asian Woman of Achievement award, and Business woman of the Year title.

 As its chief executive Dame Asha has been instrumental in making West Nottinghamshire College one of the eminent institutions in the UK.

“While this personal recognition is very humbling, it is also testimony to the hard-working and dedicated staff who make West Nottinghamshire College the success story that it is,” she said

The First Women Awards 2015 ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 11, 2015 at the London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square with presenter, writer and BAFTA-winning broadcaster Clare Balding as the host.

The NRI is up against  Safia Minney of People Tree, Helen Milner of the Tinder Foundation, Laura Dietz of the Royal Navy, Rona Kotecha of the Mara Foundation, and Catherine Rushforth of Catherine Rushforth & Associates. 

Founded in 2005, the First Women awards aim to celebrate the achievements of inspirational women from a variety of businesses and professional sectors. There are 12 categories in total and a 20-strong judging panel including Morella Kayman, co-founder and vice-president of the Alzheimer’s Society, Vin Murria DBA, chief executive of the Advanced Computer Software Group, and Dawn Elson, business transformation leader at Gatwick Airport will pick the winner.

Last year, Dame Asha also received the coveted Woman of the Year accolade from Prime Minister David Cameron at the GG2 Leadership Awards, just weeks after receiving an inaugural Dadabhai Naoroji Award from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

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