Ms Bedi participated in a panel discussion on 'conversations on social activism' during the day-long symposium titled 'Women changing India', organised by Barnard College, USA, on Friday.
She talked about how, if she had wanted, she could have become Delhi's first woman police commissioner. Some bureaucrats and politicians "conspired" to see that Delhi did not get a woman police chief, she said.
"I could have compromised to become the Delhi CP but I did not. Had I done so, my self-esteem would have gone down," the cop-turned-activist said.
Other than Ms Bedi, the session had Mirai Chatterjee, director of social security at Self Employed Women's Association; Shaheen Mistri, founder of Teach for India and Gita Sen, professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, as speakers.
"Women are critical stakeholders in India. They are leaders in their communities, in economic development, in activist movements, in corporate board rooms - their influence is really at the heart of everything happening here," said Debora Spar, president of Barnard College.
The panel talk on 'Voices of the region' highlighted major contributors to arts and media in India, and speakers included Nandita Das, Farah Khan, journalist Mallika Kapur and Brinda Somaya, architect and conservationist.
The discussion on 'Empowering women through enterprise' drew some high-profile women leaders in varied sectors, including Vedika Bhandarkar, managing director and vice chairman of Credit Suisse India; Chhavi Rajawat, sarpanch of Soda village in Rajasthan; Shaina NC, fashion designer and BJP politician; and Zia Mody, corporate lawyer.
The annual symposium was previously held in Beijing in 2009, in Dubai in 2010, and in Johannesburg in 2011. The series will continue next year in Brazil.