The inaugural celebration of International Men's Day 2023 witnessed a remarkable collaboration between Women in Management and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), culminating in the recognition of the ‘Top 10 Champions of Diversity’ at the Taj Samudra, Colombo. This milestone event honored individuals committed to fostering diversity, inclusion, and equality (DEI) within organizations and society at large. Going beyond a mere awards ceremony, the event featured enriching panel discussions spotlighting the exceptional efforts of the awardees. These individuals had passionately advocated and championed DEI initiatives within their workplaces and broader societal realms.
Dr. Sulochana Segera, the visionary behind Women in Management, underscored the importance of collaborative efforts transcending genders in the pursuit of equality and inclusion. She emphasized that celebrating International Men's Day served as an opportune moment to recognize the often unnoticed contributions of many men striving for inclusivity and equality. Dr. Segera stated, ‘for years, the mantle of spearheading equality, diversity, and inclusion has primarily rested on women's shoulders, sidelining the involvement of men. As Women’s Day evolved into a commercial affair, it's crucial to acknowledge the significance of joining hands across genders to achieve true diversity. It's time to honor the silent champions, the men, who have diligently worked towards fostering inclusivity, diversity, and equality across society.”
Alejandro Alvarez de la Campa, the IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives, highlighted the critical role diversity plays within organizations. He emphasized that embracing diversity, be it in terms of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or ability, is not merely morally imperative but also holds tangible benefits for everyone involved. The awardees stood as living proof, showcasing how their efforts in diverse industries bore fruit in enhancing business efficacy.
The panel discussions delved into pressing issues, with Chandra Schafter, Chairman Emeritus and Founder of Janashakthi Group, stressing the urgency of breaking the cycle of historical injustices. His emphasis lay in valuing and respecting all ethnic groups and workers, irrespective of their backgrounds, to bolster the nation's economic contributions. Krishan Balendara, Chairman and CEO of John Keells Holdings PLC, shared groundbreaking insights into the company’s parental leave policies. Their introduction of equal 100 days of maternity and paternity leave as parental leave aimed to eradicate discrimination against women and promote equal opportunities; a pioneering move within Sri Lanka's corporate landscape.
The event witnessed the participation of key figures from Sri Lanka's private sector, including board members, management personnel, and influential personalities from the business community, underscoring the widespread recognition and support for initiatives promoting diversity and equality.
The Top 10 Champions of Diversity recognized at the event were:
- Technology: Sushena Ranatunga, Director of Creative Software
- Social Responsibility Sector: P.Sivakumar, Assistant Director, Family Planning Association (Sri Lanka)
- Banking and Finance: Bingumal Thewarathanthri, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank
- Media: Sujan Wijewardena, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director, Wijeya Newspapers Limited
- Advocacy in Diversity: Hemantha Jayawardena, Founder, Diversity Collective Lanka
- Digital and Communication: Supun Weerasinghe, Chief Executive Officer, Dialog Axiata
- Inclusivity: Ishan Jalill, Founder and President, Ability for Action
- Business Diversity: Krishan Balendra, Chairman and CEO, John Keells Holdings PLC
- Manufacturing and Export: Deshamanya Mahesh Amalean, Co-Founder and Chairman, MAS Holdings (PVT) Ltd
- Insurance: Chandra Schafter, Chairman Emeritus and Founder, Janashakthi Group
- Entrepreneurship in Manufacturing: Deshamanya Soori Rajan, Chairman and Managing Director, Sun Match and Asoka Group
- Social Responsibility and Community Empowerment: Dr Vinya Ariyaratne, President, Sarvvodaya