The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2019 were conferred recently, with Sri Lankan women leaders recognized for their contributions to sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the country.
Achievements like these, within corporations, communities, or livelihoods, have led to more inspiring stories of Sri Lankan women entering the global market, and have 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 inclusive economic growth. Research shows that increasing women’s participation in the economy — as employees, entrepreneurs, and business leaders — boosts sustainable economic growth and benefits generations to come.
The awards, presented by Women in Management (WIM), IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Government of Australia, recognized women from Sri Lanka with prestigious awards for excellence in either their chosen careers or for inspiring women in their community.
Top awards for 2019 went to Chief Executive Officer of Haycarb Plc – Sharmila Ragunathan (Career Role Model of the Year), the Chairperson of Swadeshi Industrial Works Amari Wijewardena (Business Role Model of the Year), Minette Perera from Dilmah Ceylon Tea (Woman on Boards), and the Founder/CEO of 99x Technologies, Mano Sekaram (Male Champion of the Year).
“This year, more than any other, highlights how important it is for us to break stereotypes, overlook cultural barriers and build a more inclusive environment that helps the country rebuild and recover to reach greater heights. Each year, we at WIM are humbled by the inspirational stories from exceptional women across every level, from corporates to the grassroots, and we are thrilled to be able to award and champion the multitude of women who continue to lead the charge,” said Dr. Sulochana Segera, the Founder of Women in Management (WIM).
Meanwhile Haily Seneviratne, a lecturer at Wayamba University with a reputation for scientific innovations and their commercialization, walked away with the Youth Leadership of the Year Award. Famed Neurologist Dr. Kanjana Sashi Perara from Canada’s McMaster University was recognized with the International Women Leadership Award for her efforts in raising awareness about strokes among women. Scientist Hasini Jayathilaka was the recipient of the Trail Blazer award for her laudable research breakthrough in cancer metastasis. Rohini Thelis, whose tremendous journey led her from factory machine operator to factory owner received the Courageous Woman Award.
Held for the ninth consecutive year, the ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2019 were powered by Gold Sponsors John Keells Properties and Singer Sri Lanka, and Silver Sponsors Lanka IOC, Coca-Cola, and Bank of Ceylon. SAGT also served as a Sponsor. The Gifting Partners were British Cosmetics, Fems, Velvet and Clogard.
Meanwhile, several Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur recognitions were received, with Dilani Nirosha Jagodaarachchi, Managing Director for British Cosmetics, famed designer and Creative Director of Buddhi Batiks Darshi Keerthisena, and Dulani Guruge, the owner of Flameback Eco Lodge securing awards in the Small, Medium and Large Business categories, respectively.
The 2019 Awards also witnessed a number of up-and-coming entrepreneurs being showcased, including the Founder/CEO of EZ Booking, which is based out of the North, Jaruza Jayachandran; Owner of Modern Tailoring of Kandy, Farsana Fathima Ubaideen, Team Leader of Liyasevana Cane Producers of Maha Oya, W. M. Rupalatha, the Founder of Kimbula Kithul Lanka, Chanchala Gunewardena, and the owner of Ashoka Bag Design Center of Warankatagoda, Ashoka Ranjani.
Multiple women who played a strong role in uplifting the lives of many others were recognized with the Inspirational Women of the Year awards. These included the Founder of financial consulting company She Consults, Aruni Rajakarier; the Founder of Ogilvy Action Sandya Salgado; Padmini Indira Senaratne Samarasinghe, the first female Principal of the Sri Lanka Law College Colombo; Dr. Kanchana Kohombage, the first Sri Lankan woman to work at the Criminal Investigation Unit in India; Lasanthi Gunawardane, Linea NXT’s Center Director of Research, Innovation and Technology; and the Managing Director/Executive Engineer of Oceanica Group of Companies, Dona Chitra Boteju.
In the career categories, women from across multiple sectors were recognized for their contributions towards economic development. Delrene Seneviratne, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of SANASA Development Bank PLC was recognized in the Banking category, while Nilika Goonatilleke, Finance Director at Hemas Manufacturing was honored for Finance Management. In the HR industry, Bani Chandrasena, Head of Human Resources at LSEG Business Services Colombo was awarded. Sampath Bank’s Deputy Chairperson Saumya Amarasekara received an accolade for her work in the Legal sector, and Government Agent for the Ratnapura Divisional Secretariat Malani Lokupothagama walked away with recognition for her role in the State and Government category.
Nilushi Jayatileke the Marketing Director – Beauty and Personal Care, of Unilever Sri Lanka, Selonica Nalawansa, the Executive Director for Publicis at Leo Burnett Sri Lanka, and Imanthi Perera, the Deputy General Manager for Corporate Communications at Brandix Apparel Limited were awarded for contributions in the Marketing, Advertising and Corporate Communications categories, respectively. Veteran journalist Randima Attygalle was awarded in the Print Media category, and Sharmila Dharmarasa, Director Programming at TV Derana won in the Electronic Media category.
In recognition for her invaluable contributions to Sri Lanka’s National Netball Team, top scorer Tharjini Sivalingam received an award, as did Dhashma Karunratne, the Commercial and Marketing Head for SAGT, for her work in Supply Chain and Logistics. Chinthi Weeasinghe, CEO of Mitra Innovation Digital won in the Information Technology category.
Winning honors in the Hospitality space was General Manager of soon-to-be-opened Hilton Yala Gitanjali Chakrawarthy. Upuli Panibharatha of the Channa-Upuli Performing Arts Foundation was recognized with an award in the area of Arts and Creative Science.
Nalani Kumari Dissanayake, Officer in Charge of the Commercial Crime Investigation Unit III at the CID was recognized for an impressive career track-record in the Defense Force and Civil Society sector. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Professor Chandrika N Wijeratne, was recognized in the Education sector, while Waruni Algama, General Manager for Digital User Experience, Digital Adoption and Knowledge Management at Dialog Axiata won for Digital Technology.
Career Achievement Awards went to Thamari Senanayake, Associate Director for Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at Fonterra Brands Lanka and Shashikala Premawardhane, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to Singapore. Also, Service Appreciation Awards were awarded to CMC Employee from Dematagoda, Edward Juliana, and S. A. Dhammika Nilakshi from garment manufacturer Sirio Limited.
Additionally, National Development Bank Sri Lanka was recognized as the Best Private Sector Organization Promoting Women in the Workplace, and David Peiris Motor Company was highlighted as the Best CSR Program in the Private Sector for Women’s Empowerment, for their technical training programs aimed at creating trained, certified women mechanics. The Welikada sub-committee at the Welikada Prison was recognized as the Best Women’s Empowerment Project run by an NGO, INGO or International Organization, for their efforts to uplift the lives of women prisoners.
In the Maldives segment, top honors were taken by Maryam Visam, Registrar of Companies at the Ministry of Economic Affairs (Career Role Model of the Year – Maldives), Aminath Salah, CEO, Voyages Maldives (CEO of the Year – Maldives), and Mariyam Waheeda (Inspirational Woman of the Year – Maldives).
This year’s judging panel included Panel Chairperson Kasturi Chelleraja Wilson, Managing Director – Hemas Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd and Hemas Logistics and Maritime Cluster; Amena Arif – Country Manager for Sri Lanka and Maldives, IFC; Dr. Rohantha Athukorala – President/CEO, Clootrack Sri Lanka and Maldives; Kumar Samarasinghe – Director of Marketing, Singer Sri Lanka; veteran journalist Nisthar Cassim; Rose Cooray – Director, HNB; and Jayanthi Dharmasena – Managing Director, Hayleys Agriculture.