Glass ceiling or the sticky floor

With the recent events unfolding in Sri Lanka, it’s high time that the corporate leaders and thought leaders of the Sri Lankan society take a stand on the gender discrimination that is happening right before our very own eyes. The elephant in the room is conveniently ignored, whereas all mundane topics are being discussed. 

Despite being a nation that produced the first-ever female prime minister back in 1960s, six decades later, we are still fighting for a significant allocation for female members in Parliament and Cabinet representation.  The latest is the appointment of Sri Lanka’s first-ever female DIG and her male colleagues going to courts asking for an order to cancel her appointment. 

As a country, we are proud of the fact that we have an over 95 percent literacy rate and statistics reveal that over 60 percent of the students that enrol for tertiary education are females.  If we scan the media closely, we will see how many female students excel in local and government exams in Sri Lanka. So, what happens to those bright-eyed smart girls after few years? Are they being pushed back to take a back seat, simply because of their gender? 
Even in the corporate world, topics such as gender discrimination, glass ceiling and patriarchy, are spoken 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 empowered their fairer sex offspring to take over the reins of their business empires.  

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 the so-called primitive societies understood and practiced the importance of giving a fair chance to the females members of society. 

Six years ago, back in 2015, Ali Baba Founder Jack Ma said the secret source of Ali Baba’s success was the female executives in his organisation. At that time, 34 percent of Ali Baba senior executives 
were females. 

“They really make this company’s yin and yang balanced; they balance the logic and the instinct,” was how he articulated his opinion on the role of women in his company’s leadership roles. But in my opinion, in Sri Lanka, in most organisations, we have to clean the floor first, where it’s so sticky that the females can’t even lift their feet up to jump to break the glass ceiling. Today, it is DIG Bimshani Jasin Arachchi who makes the headlines and tomorrow it can be you or me or your daughter 
or wife.

(Gayani Punchihewa is a professional marketer, with over 15 years of experience in the service sector, specialising in the media and advertising industries in Sri Lanka as well as overseas)

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