By Gayani Punchihewa
DIG Bimshani Jasin Arachchi
With the recent events unfolding in Sri Lanka, it’s high time that corporate leaders and thought leaders of Sri Lankan society take a stand on the gender discrimination happening right before our very eyes. The white elephant in the room is conveniently ignored whereas all mundane topics are being discussed.
A nation where we produced the first ever female State leader back in 1960, six decades later we are still fighting for a significant allocation for female members in Parliament and Cabinet. Further the appointment of a first ever female DIG has now joined the many other gender discrimination battles that take place in the corporate and state sector.
As a country we are proud of the fact that we have an over 95% literacy rate, and tertiary education statistics reveal that over 60% of the students enrolled are females. If we scan the media closely, we see how many female students excel in Local and Government exams in Sri Lanka. So, what happens to those bright-eyed intellectuals after a few years? Are they being pushed back to take a back seat simply because of the gender they are assigned at birth?
The corporate world is full of wisdom for employees looking to reach their full potential, and to help employees strike a balance between work and life, among many other things. Topics such as gender discrimination, glass ceiling and patriarchy are only spoken of in hushed tones.
Challenging the status quo are a few corporate leaders like Harry Jayawardena, Victor Hettigoda, Mineka Wickramasinghe and Herbert Cooray, among many other visionary corporate leaders, who have empowered their fairer sex offspring to take over the reins of their business empires. The hope is that, if those working under them are willing to learn, then they will be able to teach the rest of society mired in a patriarchal mindset a few lessons on gender equality and the widespread benefits of empowering females in the society. The African proverb, ‘when you educate a man, you educate a man, but when you educate a woman you educate a generation,’ clearly defines that even so-called primitive societies understood and practiced the importance of giving a fair chance to female members of society.
Six years ago, back in 2015, Ali Baba Founder Jack Ma said the secret sauce for Ali Baba’s success was the female executives within his organisation. At the time, 34% of Ali Baba senior executives were female. “They really make this company’s yin and yang balanced, they balance the logic and the instinct,” said Ma, articulating his opinion on the role of women in his company.
It’s high time that male executives hiding behind male chauvinistic behaviour, where they long to have their daughters empowered with more qualifications and more attributes, open the doors to their female colleagues and employees to shatter the glass ceiling.
But in my opinion in Sri Lanka, in most organisations we have to clean the floor first where it’s so sticky that females can’t even lift their feet up to jump to break the glass ceiling.
Today it’s DIG Bimshani Jasin Arachchi who makes the headlines, tomorrow it can be either you or me or your daughter or your wife.
Which side of the world do you want to stand at this moment?
(The writer is a professional marketer with over 15 years’ experience in the service sector, specialising in the media and advertising industries in Sri Lanka as well as overseas.)