Top 50 Professional and Career Women Awards | Sunday Observer

Top 50 Professional and Career Women Awards

Winners of the Women Top 50 professional and career awards with the panel of judges.
Winners of the Women Top 50 professional and career awards with the panel of judges.

‘Be the change for Sri Lanka as so many women look up to you to be their role model’ was the call by the Founder and Chairperson of Women in Management (WIM) Dr. Sulochana Segera who has walked the talk as a mother, mentor and now a role model for both men and women to ignite their dormant spirits and bring about the change the world so desperately needs.

Having single handedly brought up two children and then going on to form WIM, an organisation to empower women Dr. Segera called upon the winners of the ‘Top 50 Professional and Career Women awards’ held last week in Colombo to encourage another to be a recipient of the same accolade that will have a ripple effect among women to excel in their careers and be leaders the country needs.

“Use the award presented to you tonight to empower another as their children too need a model to emulate,” she said.

WIM has awarded nearly 400 women since its inaugural awards in 2010 but only less than five percent of them have contributed to the work WIM does among women. However, according to Dr. Segera the five percent has made a salient contribution going beyond career guidance to reach out to rural women to achieve the objectives of the organisation.

WIM has expanded the number of awardees from five to 50 recognising and rewarding outstanding women in diverse spheres in the corporate sector.

“Selecting 50 winners was not an easy task. We would like to have more entering the fray vying for awards but it is the best who would be sifted through a rigorous screening process to be judged the best,’ the WIM’s chairperson said. Recalling the many hurdles she faced as the sole breadwinner, Dr. Segera said money should not be a road block in one’s path to progress.

“I was a single mother with finances enough only to support myself and my children. But that did not stop me. I believed that money cannot be a reason to hold me back from what I want to achieve. Women do not need charity and that is why WIM is neither an NGO nor an institution that believes in hand-outs and assistance to empower women. What propelled me was the determination to do something about something that I was passionate about,” she said. The founder of WIM is a firm believer that Sri Lankan women can and have done immensely for the country. However, what disheartened her is the underestimation of women both in the corporate and in the political arena.

Dr. Segera said participation of women in Sri Lanka’s economy which is 35.8 % is low compared with the male participation rate. However, this does not mean women are not contributing to the economy but it is a clear indication that women are often unpaid. This is an injustice and disservice to women who should be motivated to play a role as the country’s engine of growth.

“The three reasons for setting up WIM and awarding women are women, women and women. The awards are to tell what women can do for the world.

Having a large number of women in politics is not an answer to bring change but if the few in power can bring that change it is a step forward. The country will fall in the right path the day Sri Lankan women understand the power they wield,’ Dr. Segera said.

Chairman, Panel of Judges Dr. Rohantha Athukorala said Sri Lanka’s economy will not grow over three percent if it does not create a knowledge economy that drives innovation.

‘My Harvard professor sketched out what drives growth and it is none other than innovation. China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have grown because of innovation. We see the issue at hand for Sri Lanka. We need to drive innovation in partnership with universities,” he said.

The Top 50 awards presented by WIM and the IFC, a World Bank Group, the awards witnessed 63 women from Sri Lanka and the Maldives being honoured with Gold and Silver awards for excellence in their career and inspiring women in their community.

The top wards for 2018 were bagged by Jayanthi Dharmasena Managing Director of Haleys Agriculture(Career Role Model of the Year), Marise Deckker Managing Director Astron Ltd.( Best Corporate Leader of the Year), Indrani Fernando Managing Director Philips Hospital (Business Role Model of the Year) and local retail icon Otara Gunewardene (Woman of the Year).

Sri Lanka’s own Bollywood hit-maker Jacqueline Fernandez was highlighted as “Woman Achiever for South Asia”, while Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth, was recognised with the “Youth Leadership Award”.