• ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2018 take inspiring stories of Sri Lankan women to the world
• 63 remarkable women from Sri Lanka and Maldives recognized with Gold and Silver awards
The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2018 were celebrated recently, with remarkable women leaders from Sri Lanka recognized 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 labor 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 honored 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 recognized for accomplishments benefiting women. Top awards for 2018 went to Jayanthi Dharmasena, Managing Director of Hayleys Agriculture (Career Role Model of the Year), Marise Deckker, Managing Director of Astron Ltd (Best Woman Corporate Leader of the Year), Indrani Fernando, Managing Director of Philips Hospital (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 Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy for Youth, was recognized 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 unrecognized 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 Dr. Sulochana Segera, the Founder of Women in Management (WIM). 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 organizational 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 Shyamalee Tudawe, Editor of Hi Magazine (Game Changer Award), Annika Senanayake, Chief Executive Officer of Art Television Broadcasting Co, a member of IWS Holdings (Impact Generator Award) and Rose Cooray, Director of HNB and Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (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, 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 recognized “Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs” and “Upcoming Women Entrepreneurs” from all across Sri Lanka. Gold for “Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur – Large” went to Deepani Samarasinghe, Chairperson of APS Knitters Pvt Ltd, with Gold for “Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur – Medium” going to Jayomi Lokuliyana, Managing Director of ZMessenger (Pvt) Ltd, and Gold for “Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur – Small” awarded to Janaki Kathriararchchi, Founder/Managing Director of Three Star Organic Farm Pvt Ltd.
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 Fiber 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 recognized with Gold or Silver for excellence in their chosen careers in 2018. For Human Resources, Gold was awarded to Dinusha Jayamanne, Human Resources Director of Fonterra Brands Lanka Pvt Ltd, while Silver was received by Michelle Senanayake, Group Head of Human Resources at Sunshine Holdings PLC. In the field of Banking, Insurance and Finance, Anoji De Silva, Partner of Ernst & Young Sri Lanka was recognized with Gold, with Anusha Gallage, Chief Financial Officer of HNB, awarded Silver. Gold for Marketing and Sales was won by Sharmila Bandara, Marketing Director of Unilever Sri Lanka Ltd, with Silver awarded to Nadi B. Dharmasiri, Board Trustee of The Chartered Institute of Marketing Sri Lanka and Head of Marketing at Sampath Bank. Gold for Advertising went to Anusha David, Chairperson of Headline PR, and Silver was awarded to Nadeeka Kumarihami, Managing Director of Trumps Solutions Pvt Ltd. Gold in Information Technology went to Vidumini Ranasinghe, Project Director at MillenniumIT, 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, Hon. Justice Murdu Fernando PC of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka was awarded Gold, while Janaki Senanayake Siriwardane, Secretary to the Board of the Bank of Ceylon was recognized 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 also handed to Indira Malwatte, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Export Development Board for State and Government Sector and Silver for State and Government Sector going to Dr. Sepalika Sudasinghe, Senior Consultant at SLIDA. Gold in the Media – Print category was awarded to Kumudini Hettiarachchi, Deputy Editor for News Features at the Sunday Times, with Gold for Media – Electronic going to Sithara Kaluarachchi, TV presenter at Rupavahini and ITN. For the Corporate Communications category, Suzanne Wooster Prematilaka, the Communication Officer for External Relations at UNICEF, won Gold and Gigi De Silva, Marketing Communication Manager at Hilton Colombo, received Silver. The category of Logistics, Shipping, Ports and Freight witnessed Dr. Ruanthi De Silva, Consultant/Director of SCM Plus Pvt Ltd being handed the Gold, while Anoma Ranasinghe, General Manager for Export and Import, Shipping, Documentation, Cargo Claims and Trainings at McLarens Shipping Ltd walked away with the Silver. Hotel and Hospitality Gold went to Shibani Renuka Thambaiya, Executive Director and Marketing Director of Renuka City Hotels PLC, and Silver to Madubhani Perera, Director of Marketing at the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. Famous soprano Kishani Jayasinghe was recognized with Gold for Arts and Creative Science, while Anusha Kodithuwakku, the first female boxer to win an Asian Games medal and a Commwealth 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. Architect Prof. Chitra Weddikkara, the former Head of the Department of Building Economics at the University of Moratuwa also won a Gold for excellence in her chosen profession. For the category of “Career Achievement”, Gayani De Alwis, the Founding Chairperson of CILT Sri Lanka and the WiLAT Global Vice Chairperson for South Asia, was recognized with a Gold for her contributions to the Logistics and Supply Chain sector, and Nisreen Rehmanjee, the Vice President and Head of Tax and Social Entrepreneurship at John Keells Group, 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 Organization” 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 Pvt Ltd. “Best Private Sector Organization 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 honor for “Career Achievement (Maldives)” went to Sahar Waheed, People and Change Director at the Bank of Maldives, while the “Career Role Model of the Year (Maldives)” was given out to Aisath Noordeen, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Maldives. The category winner for “Travel and Tourism (Maldives)” was Visha Mahir, Executive Director of Universal Resorts, with “Business Role Model of the Year (Maldives)” being awarded to Dr. Mariyam Shakeela, Chief Executive Officer of SIMDI Group. The “Youth Leadership Award (Maldives)” was bestowed upon Raidha Shafeeq, Owner of Raidhas Maldives and “Woman with a Cause (Maldives)” went to Ifham Hussain, Managing Director of the Maldives Autism Association.