Celebrating trailblazing women leaders in Sri Lanka: ‘Top50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2020
The “Top50” Professional and Career Women Awards is Women in Management’s (WIM) foremost annual event that recognises and celebrates individual and corporate achievements of trailblazing women leaders in Sri Lanka. 2020 celebrates the 10th year of the awards since inception. This year’s award ceremony was held on 26 January at Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, in the presence of many prominent men and women working in a diverse range of fields.
What is Women in Management?
WIM is a private limited company dedicated to uniting Sri Lanka’s professional and entrepreneurial women. WIM provides a networking platform for women to realise their dreams by facilitating a process which helps foster innate potential while developing skill sets. WIM also acts as a conduit to the transformation of women in business by providing leadership, inspiration, and professional services to its members and non-members alike. It is a service-oriented organisation where its members benefit through exposure to potential clientele, offer their expertise, and earn remuneration. They are committed to helping create professional opportunities for women, which in turn can help strengthen economic growth in Sri Lanka.
The Professional and Career Women Awards, founded by R. Sulochana Segera in 2011, were conceived to provide a platform for the pipeline of female talent in Sri Lanka and Asia. Through the Professional and Career Women Award programme, WIM has built a remarkable, informal community of influential women determined not only to build fruitful professional and personal relationships with one another, but to be advocates for an exciting new generation of leadership talent.
Their main objective of the award ceremony is to honour women contributing to the national and regional economy by celebrating their achievements, experience, and creativity in leading institutions, professions, and businesses, by seizing opportunities and overcoming challenges. Now in the 10th year, the awards continue to unearth and recognise the inspirational leadership of tomorrow across diverse sectors.
This year’s panel of judges was chaired by Jetwing Travels Chairman and Managing Director Shiromal Cooray, High Commissioner of Australia to Sri Lanka David John Holly, John Keells Group Executive Vice-President Nadija Tambiah, Clootrack Sri Lanka/Maldives and Pakistan CEO Dr. Rohantha Athukorala, IFC Women in Work Programme Manager Sarah Twigg, Daily FT Editor Nisthar Cassim, Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd. Managing Director Jayanthi Dharmasena, Marketing Consultant Kumara Samarasinghe, Fonterra Brands Lanka Ltd. Regulatory Affairs and Consumer Care Associate Director Corporate Thamari Senanayake, and Shippers Academy Colombo Ltd. CEO Rohan Maskorala. They faced the difficult task of evaluating a strong line-up of applicants from various industries.
In conversation with the winners
We at The Morning Brunch spoke to a few women that received awards at the ceremony.
Selyn Handlooms Business Development Director Selyna Peiris was awarded the gold award for Emerging Business Leader. For over two decades, Selyna has ensured the continuity of the tradition of handloom in Sri Lanka, after Selyn was passed down by her mother. She has revolutionised the handloom industry in Sri Lanka, and brought up an option for a more sustainable lifestyle. Sharing her thoughts on this achievement, Pieris commented: “I think it’s an added expectation, which is good because it keeps people like us on our toes and helps us to keep on going.” She added that society is watching them with a certain expectation now, which she regards as a positive fact because there will be accountability at the end of the day. “It is also quite nice to be recognised, and I’m looking forward to our future endeavours.”
Pioneer and member of the Board of Trustees at Indira Cancer Trust, Dr. Lanka Jayasuriya Dissanayake was awarded the gold award from the Organisational category for Best NGO, INGO, or Association on Women Empowerment. Indira Cancer Trust (ICT) was set up in memory of Indira Jayasuriya, who was Dr. Dissanayake’s sister, who passed away in November 2016 from breast cancer at the age of 40 years. The trust was initiated as the Cancer Care Trust in 2016 with specific objectives. However, it then evolved into Indira Cancer Trust with broader objectives in 2018 which include a multitude of projects including the Mobile Mammography Project, hair and wig donation, livelihood development, as well as relaxation programmes. Commenting on this magnanimous achievement, Dr. Dissanayake said: “We won this award in recognition of the work of Indira. We were very happy to receive this award. The programme had many amazing women and to be part of that was amazing.” She added that today, ICT is an organisation with over 500 volunteers that aim to raise awareness about the severity of breast cancer. “A lot of the credit goes out to our team; they are the strength of our organisation. We have a lot of support from our patrons and we also have an amazing set of volunteers and staff.” She further stated that this award would not have been possible without the commitment from the team. “We will continue to do our work and raise awareness on breast cancer.”
Soundarie David was awarded the gold as the winner of in the Art and Creative Industry category. She has had a significant impact in the music industry in Sri Lanka, and is recognised for her uncanny mentoring skills and breathtaking vocals and pianist skills. She shared her thoughts on receiving this award: “I am humbled to have received this award for the Arts and Creative Industry, and I thank God for the abundant blessings I have received all my life.” She also said a special thank you to the organisers WIM, for encouraging women in every sphere to keep raising standards. “From my end – this award really belongs to all the women I have looked up to, my teachers and those who have guided me along the way.” She also expressed gratitude to her family who have always given her the space to dream. Concluding, with a few touching words, she said: “Let music continue to inspire and bring the world together.”