The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2018 were celebrated on Tuesday with remarkable women leaders from Sri Lanka recognised for their significant contributions within their corporations, communities, or livelihoods. Achievements like these have, in turn, led to more inspiring stories of Sri Lankan women entering the global market, and has spurred more women to enter the workforce.
With only one in three women participating in Sri Lanka’s formal labour force, increasing their participation becomes vital for sustainable, and inclusive economic growth.
Presented by Women In Management (WIM) and the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, the awards witnessed 63 women from Sri Lanka and the Maldives being honoured with prestigious Gold and Silver awards for excellence in either their chosen career, or for inspiring women in their community. Additionally, corporates and other institutions were also recognised for accomplishments benefiting women.
Top awards for 2018 went to Hayleys Agriculture Managing Director Jayanthi Dharmasena (Career Role Model of the Year), Astron Ltd. Managing Director Marise Deckker (Best Woman Corporate Leader of the Year), Philips Hospital Managing Director Indrani Fernando (Business Role Model of the Year), and local retail icon Otara Gunewardene (Woman of the Year).
At the same time, Sri Lanka’s own Bollywood hit-maker Jacqueline Fernandez was highlighted as ‘Woman Achiever for South Asia,’ while UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake was recognised with the ‘Youth Leadership Award’.
Dr. Gayani Tillekeratne, Assistant Professor at the Department of Medicine at Duke University, one of the most prestigious medical institutes in the world, Senior TED Fellow Asha de Vos, a marine biologist, ocean educator and pioneer of blue whale research within the Northern Indian Ocean, Prof. Chamindi Dilkushi Senaratne, an author and Professor of English Language Teaching at the University of Kelaniya, and J.M. Kamalawathi, a social worker, were all showcased as ‘Inspirational Women of the Year’.
“Participation by women in Sri Lanka’s economy, which is 35.8%, is significantly less when compared with male participation rates. However, this does not mean that women are not contributing to the economy, but is a clear indicator that women are often unpaid and unrecognised family members. This is an injustice and disservice to women who should instead be motivated to play a greater role as Sri Lanka’s engine of growth. The contributions by women toward Sri Lanka’s economy has yet to be measured correctly and fairly, which if done right will better acknowledge and inspire us in our most important role, to help Sri Lanka ascend to greater levels of economic and inclusive prosperity,” said Women in Management (WIM) Founder Dr. Sulochana Segera.
Two highly accomplished international women took home Gold for ‘International Woman Leader’ this year. The first was Damindra Dias, a former international executive at the Kellogg Company and Coca-Cola Company working in Canada, USA, Germany and South Asia. A high achiever with a passion for organisational leadership, strategic thinking and “never say no” attitude, she progressed from Accounting Clerk to Corporate Controller and Vice President (Finance), ultimately climbing to the rank of Managing Director and CEO. The second was Sheree Atcheson, an award-winning board-appointed Global Ambassador for Women Who Code, a Consultant at Deloitte, the Founder of www.iamlanka.org and the Ambassador for One Young World Belfast, United Kingdom.
Other notable 2018 award winners included Hi Magazine Editor Shyamalee Tudawe (Game Changer Award), Art Television Broadcasting Co Chief Executive Officer Annika Senanayake, a member of IWS Holdings (Impact Generator Award) and HNB Director and former Central Bank of Sri Lanka Deputy Governor Rose Cooray (Judges Award).
Held for the eighth consecutive year, the ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2018 were made possible by WIM and IFC, and powered by Platinum Sponsor EVA. Supporters of the 2018 awards included co-partner DFAT-IFC’s Women in Work program, Gold Sponsors Singer and Sun Aqua, Silver Sponsors Coca Cola and LIOC, Communications Sponsor Sri Lanka Telecom and Hospitality Partner Hilton Colombo, Digital Media Partner Orix Marketing and Gifting Partners Unilever and Mega We Care.
Also important, the awards recognised ‘Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Upcoming Women Entrepreneurs’ from all across Sri Lanka. Gold for ‘Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur – Large’ went to APS Knitters Ltd Chairperson Deepani Samarasinghe, with Gold for ‘Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur – Medium’ going to ZMessenger Ltd. Managing Director Jayomi Lokuliyana, and Gold for ‘Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur – Small’ awarded to Three Star Organic Farm Ltd Founder/Managing Director Janaki Kathriararchchi.
Inspirational up-and-coming women leaders including Srimali Senn (AM Web Designers and Developers), Achala Samaradivakara (Good Market), T.S. Anula Ranjani Thomas Singho (Sethishi Products Vavuniya), Mohamed Kavitha (Udayam Woman Small Industries Mannar), Kanchana Fernando, Mohideen Reliffaa Begam, Mannika Rasa Sobana (Banana Fibre Products Vengalachettikulam Vavuniya), Lasanka Priyadarshini Perera (Tharushi Sweets Hingurana Ampara) and Damayanthi Rathnayake (Prasadi Batik Uahan Ampara) were also celebrated with Gold in the ‘Upcoming Women Entrepreneurs’ category, a result of their remarkable success stories that have inspired others.
The following were recognised with Gold or Silver for excellence in their chosen careers in 2018. For Human Resources, Gold was awarded to Fonterra Brands Lanka Ltd Human Resources Director Dinusha Jayamanne, while Silver was received by Sunshine Holdings PLC Human Resources Group Head Michelle Senanayake. In the field of Banking, Insurance and Finance, Ernst & Young Sri Lanka Partner Anoji De Silva was recognised with Gold, with HNB Chief Financial Officer Anusha Gallage awarded Silver.
Gold for Marketing and Sales was won by Unilever Sri Lanka Ltd Marketing Director Sharmila Bandara, with Silver awarded to The Chartered Institute of Marketing Sri Lanka Board Trustee and Sampath Bank Marketing Head Nadi B. Dharmasiri. Gold for Advertising went to Headline PR Chairperson Anusha David, and Silver was awarded to Trumps Solutions Ltd. Managing Director Nadeeka Kumarihami. Gold in Information Technology went to MillenniumIT Project Director Vidumini Ranasinghe, and Silver was received by Dr. Buddhima Subasinghe, the youngest PhD holder in Sri Lanka in the area of Cyber Crime Investigation and Conflict Resolution in Social Media using web intelligence.
In the Legal field, Justice Murdu Fernando PC of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka was awarded Gold, while Bank of Ceylon Board Secretary Janaki Senanayake Siriwardane was recognised with Silver. Gold in the area of Defence Force and Civil Security was given out to W. P. C. Ranthilaka Mudiyanselage Manjula Kumari, with Gold for State and Government Sector handed to Export Development Board Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Indira Malwatte and Silver going to SLIDA Senior Consultant Dr. Sepalika Sudasinghe.
Gold in the Media – Print category was awarded to Sunday Times News Features Deputy Editor Kumudini Hettiarachchi, with Gold for Media – Electronic going to Rupavahini and ITN TV presenter Sithara Kaluarachchi. For the Corporate Communications category, UNICEF External Relations Communication Officer Suzanne Wooster Prematilaka won Gold and Hilton Colombo Marketing Communication Manager Gigi De Silva received Silver.
The category of Logistics, Shipping, Ports and Freight witnessed SCM Plus Ltd. Consultant/Director Dr. Ruanthi De Silva being handed the Gold, while McLarens Shipping Ltd Export and Import, Shipping, Documentation, Cargo Claims and Trainings General Manager Anoma Ranasinghe walked away with the Silver. Hotel and Hospitality Gold went to Renuka City Hotels PLC Executive Director and Marketing Director Shibani Renuka Thambaiya, and Silver to Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Marketing Director Madubhani Perera.
Famous soprano Kishani Jayasinghe was recognised with Gold for Arts and Creative Science, while Anusha Kodithuwakku, the first female boxer to win an Asian Games medal and a Commonwealth Games for Sri Lanka, was awarded the Gold for Sports and Hiruni Samalya Gamaethige, who was a Gold winner at the 4th South Asian Karate Championship, received Silver. Former University of Moratuwa of the Building Economics Department Head Architect Prof. Chitra Weddikkara also won a Gold for excellence in her chosen profession.
For the category of ‘Career Achievement.’ WiLAT Global Vice Chairperson for South Asia and CILT Sri Lanka Founding Chairperson Gayani De Alwis was recognised with a Gold for her contributions to the Logistics and Supply Chain sector, and John Keells Group Vice President and Tax and Social Entrepreneurship Head Nisreen Rehmanjee also received a Gold for her commitment and dedication to advancing the field of Finance.
Meanwhile, ‘Best Women’s Empowerment Project Run by a NGO, INGO or International Organisation’ was awarded jointly to WISTA Sri Lanka and Child Action Lanka, and ‘Best CSR Program Run by a Private Sector Entity for Women’s Empowerment’ was handed to MAS Intimates Ltd. ‘Best Private Sector Organisation Promoting Women in Workplace’ recognition was given to HNB, with ‘Positive Media Program for Women in Sri Lanka’ going to Nuga Sewana by Rupavahini and Erin Wijekoon.
This year’s awards also continued the tradition of felicitating distinguished women from the Maldives, which was started in 2017. In 2018, the honour for ‘Career Achievement (Maldives)’ went to Bank of Maldives People and Change Director Sahar Waheed, while the ‘Career Role Model of the Year (Maldives)’ was given out to Bank of Maldives Deputy Chief Executive Officer Aisath Noordeen. The category winner for ‘Travel and Tourism (Maldives)’ was Universal Resorts Executive Director Visha Mahir, with ‘Business Role Model of the Year (Maldives)’ being awarded to SIMDI Group Chief Executive Officer Dr. Mariyam Shakeela. The ‘Youth Leadership Award (Maldives)’ was bestowed upon Raidhas Maldives owner Raidha Shafeeq, and ‘Woman with a Cause (Maldives)’ went to Maldives Autism Association Managing Director Ifham Hussain.