When I first came to England more than three decades ago, the two questions I was most frequently asked were:
1) Can you cook a good curry? The answer was no, because we were never allowed in our kitchen by the chef as he didn't want to divulge his culinary secrets.
2) Do you walk two steps behind your husband, being a good Indian wife? Again the answer was no. I walked 10 steps behind him just to make sure he didn't know what I was getting up to.
It was this blatant stereotyping that led me to set up the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 15 years ago, to show that Asian women were doing more than just frying onion bhajiyas.
Through the awards we have discovered incredible talent from the most unexpected quarters. An Asian opera singer (Patricia Rosario), a world fertility expert (Professor Geeta Nargund), a Kiss FM DJ (Neev Spencer) and a young engineer who worked on The Shard (Roma Agrawal), among many others.
Recognition for these women gave them a platform and a network, which helped them to further their circle of influence and fly even higher.
I saw that championing women’s rights has to encompass more than just Asian women, so I decided to set up the Women of the Future (WOF) awards, for women under 35-years-old of all backgrounds. WOF is supported by some of the leading companies in the UK, including Ceridian who are also part of the Women of the Future Summit.
The achievements in this age group are simply breath-taking. Eleni Antoniadou is one of the world’s most innovative researchers working in the field of artificial organ development; Hannah Blyth was an 18-year-old student when she discovered two asteroids and a disintegrating comet while on a summer placement.
But do we need so many awards?
In my view awards recognising women are still invaluable. William James famously said 'the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated'. Mary Kay Ash the cosmetic entrepreneur insisted that: 'There are two things people want more than sex and money: recognition and praise'.
The recognition of our nominees in their respective fields represents and highlights sterling role models who inspire and motivate future generations of young women. It creates an astounding positive energy that ripples beyond families, friends and the organisation they work in to the society-at-large. Most importantly, recognition and praise helps create a large network of new relationships and business contacts.
We cannot put a price on the ultimate societal benefits from the validation offered to these female winners, who are also determined to use their recognition to pay it forward. The way I see it, awards are like a nourishing chicken tikka masala for the soul.
Pinky Lilani is an author, motivational speaker and internationally acclaimed champion for women. She is also an associate fellow of the Said Business School and a deputy lieutenant for Greater London. Radio 4 Women's Hour listed her as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK