The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) recently conducted an insightful panel discussion themed ‘Leading Liyo’ to address the ‘Role of Gender Equality in accelerating Economic Revival’. The panel consisted of eminent leaders in the local corporate arena, including Thusitha Molligoda, Senior Investment Officer, Asian Development Bank; Dr. Ravi Fernando, Chairman / CEO, Global Strategic Sustainability Pvt Ltd. / Visiting Lecturer in Residence INSEAD Business School, France; Himalee Madurasinghe, Chief Executive Officer, Kantar Sri Lanka and Thilanka Abeywardena, Vice President, SLIM / Chief Marketing Officer Lead, South East Asia New Markets, Microsoft Sri Lanka Pvt Ltd. The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Janaki Kuruppu, Founder / Chairperson, Mother Sri Lanka Trust / Former Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tea Board and Former Chairperson, Regional Development Bank. The SLIM Executive Committee attended the event, which was held at Waters Edge, Colombo, whereas a virtual audience of over 100 representing the Senior Managerial level to C-Suite Executives joined the discussion via Zoom and Facebook Live Streaming.
As the keynote speaker of the panel discussion, Dr. Janaki Kuruppu shed light on important aspects such as women’s role in the corporate world and the significance of training women to be at the steering wheel of corporates. She also elaborated on two main factors that create gender inequality at workplace: lack of access to opportunities and resources, and devaluing aspirations. Dr. Kuruppu highlighted the fact that the Female Board Room representation in Sri Lanka is 8%, which is way too low in comparison to neighbouring India and Bangladesh. She further mentioned that many external barriers such as Gender Pay Gap, biases and inflexible working schedules weaken the participation of women in the workforce. For instance, women face more bias, both explicit as well as implicit hidden bias from both men and women in the workplace. Apart from the external barriers, internal barriers also cripple the ability of females to participate in the workforce. A common scenario is that their career often takes a backseat when internal barriers such as caregiving duties arise. She highlighted that gender equality starts at home where we can sow the seeds of change-in-gendered-norms. She mentioned that it is time to finally close the Gender Gap and tap into the potential the world has been overlooking for centuries.
The ‘Leading Liyo’ initiative encourages women to move forward in the corporate world and take the helm. When it comes to breaking workplace gender barriers, giving equal opportunities for career women is important as it will put businesses on the fast-track to gender parity. It inspires women to shatter glass ceilings and creates awareness about the significance of workplace gender equality. ‘Leading Liyo’ is conducted as part of the Restart Sri Lanka programme, which is a knowledge-based initiative implemented by SLIM to uplift local entities to the next level from where they stand at present, through streamlining their focus, attitudes, and orientation towards overcoming the current economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. SLIM initiated this programme early this year under the auspices of the Honourable Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to accomplish the mission of empowering the local business sector through strategic guidance and mentorship.
As the topic of gender imbalance in the workforce continues to be widely discussed, the reality is that the rate of change is still significantly slow. Women, who are educated, entrepreneurial, trustworthy, committed and civic-minded are an ideal fit to lead the economy. It is important to empower them to help move the state of the current economy forward, and out of this financial crisis. Females, undoubtedly are a rumbling powerhouse, whose participation in the workforce could help economies and countries grow. Most importantly, females in the local context have made remarkable strides, adding cracks to the glass ceiling.
And yet, the gender gap is still far too wide, which is an issue of national importance that needs immediate attention. Despite the progress being made during the last couple of decades to reduce the gender gap in the corporate world, females continue to face a host of barriers in full participation that could help fundamentally change the whole national economic equation. Therefore, SLIM firmly believes that it is vital to give an opportunity to every able-bodied female to give her all and devise national level programmes to make their contribution count.
Having recognised the immense contribution made by women to the national economy, SLIM signed a ‘Women’s Charter’, creating history as the first ever professional body to launch such an initiative. The ‘Women’s Charter’ was also signed during the ‘Leading Liyo’ panel discussion where Caroline Jurie, Mrs. World 2020, graced the occasion. Accordingly, SLIM has made a pledge to foster, monitor and facilitate total marketing needs of female entrepreneurs and corporate women.
Commenting on ‘Leading Liyo’, Roshan Fernando, President, SLIM stated, “Leading Liyo focuses on corporate women and it comes under the Sustainability arm of SLIM. Achieving gender equality is the fifth Sustainable Development Goal set by the United Nations (UN) and SLIM is supporting it by promoting gender equality at national level. We have initiated Leading Liyo to encourage women to move forward in the corporate world and become equal stakeholders in driving the growth of the economy and change the world by introducing novel products and services as entrepreneurs.”
Dr. Dilhan S. Jayatilleke, Exco Member, SLIM & Project Chairman – ‘Leading Liyo’ said, “The gender gap has significant economic impact. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we have identified the fact that female leaders play a vital role in reviving the national economy. Female leaders tend to embrace teamwork among their employees and they are more likely to empower others to achieve desired results. We organized Leading Liyo to eliminate gender disparity and create awareness about the remarkable role that women play in driving the economy. The objective of the Women’s Charter is to promote gender equality by providing an equal opportunity for females to climb the corporate ladder based on their performance and talent.”
SLIM is the National body for Marketing in Sri Lanka and has been promoting marketing excellence and elevating the status of marketing since 1970. It is a member of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka (NCCSL), Organisation of Professional Associations of Sri Lanka (OPA), and Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL). SLIM also has received ISO 9001:2015 Certification in recognition of its superior Quality Management System and ISO 2990:2010 for Learning Service Provider (LSP), providing non-formal education and training services.