President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) Mr. Lasantha Wickremasinghe emphasizedupon the importance for greater female representation across the country’s public and private sectors.
Delivering a speech to mark the international women’s day at the institute which was held under the theme ‘pledge for parity – challenging conscious and unconsciousbias,’ Mr. Wickremasinghe said that there was no doubt that women are under-represented at senior management level, and to ensure that this does not continue, companies need to re-evaluate their strategies and give prominence to those who matter, by absorbing them into more important positions.
“Women in Sri Lanka form over 52 percent of the total population of nearly 21 million. However, out of the total economically active population of 8.5 million persons, only 33 percent are women. There is no doubt that women are under-represented across most sectors, and our Parliament is a very good example of this fact,” he said.
Mr. Wickremasinghe emphasized upon the importance for the accounting fraternity to also encourage more women into this profession. “We already have some high profile female CA Sri Lanka members who give leadership to leading corporates in the country, but we have just over 30 percent female representation in our membership, and this is not sufficient, and we need to improve this number,” he said.
However, on a more positive note, Mr. Wickremasinghe was hopeful of a larger female percentage of accountants’ in the future on grounds that the current 44,000 student population accounted for 60 percent of female students at the institute. “This is very encouraging,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the female staff at the institute, which accounts to 46 percent, and serve at various levels including management and senior executive level.
“I am very happy to note that the female staff of our institute are very committed, and diligent, which undoubtedly makes them a very important pillar of our institute,” Mr. Wickremasinghe added.
Meanwhile, the keynote speaker at the event, Ms. Chiranthi Cooray, Chief Human Resources Officer / AGM (HR) at Hatton National Bank PLC said that even though there is a national framework where both men and women are given equal opportunity in employment, a legislation alone doesn’t necessarily help in ensuring females are also treated equally in a workplace.
Citing certain examples, Ms. Cooray recalled how at one instance a qualified high level management member of a company had shown bias towards a female manager just because she went on maternity leave.
“Such a conversation does not necessarily promote inclusiveness in a workplace, because if you are going to have a preconceived mindset against a female worker, then it doesn’t promote an inclusive culture, and these are typical practical work place issues,” she said.
Citing another example, Ms. Cooray said that at a public forum a well-known person had said that women can’t handle tough situations. “This is gender based stereotyping,” she said.
She went on to highlight that even though women maybe more subtle and collaborative, they maybe more effective negotiatorswho bring in a different set of skills to the table.
“Across cultures and countries, women are feeling less valued in terms of contribution made compared to their male counterparts, and to get out of this situation we need to talk seriously about pledging for parity, we need to reach out and seek different perspectives, and have open conversations and promote culture and dialogue,” Mr. Cooray advised.
While emphasizing that even though in a workplace the legal framework and diversity policy applies to all equally, she noted that despite at a national level equality has been highlighted, there are still obvious inequalities at a workplace.
“Therefore, policy makers, the legal legislature, company leaders and business leaders should look at fixing these problems, so women will feel more secure and equal and also their value contributions are seen, heard and recognized,” Ms. Cooray added.