Women’s empowerment has gained momentum worldwide, sparking discussions about gender equality and the need for a balanced working world. International Women’s Day 2019, embodied by the hashtag #balanceforbetter, highlights the importance of creating a harmonious environment for women. While achieving balance is significant for all employees, it holds particular relevance for women, who often face the challenge of balancing various aspects of their lives. From building a career to managing household responsibilities, and from earning a paycheck to raising children, women are expected to strike a delicate equilibrium between compassion and ambition.
The Gender Imbalance: An Obstacle to Progress
Gender balance goes beyond moral and ethical implications; it also has tangible benefits for organizations and economies. Research conducted by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) reveals that gender balance can lead to significant advancements in business performance. However, the Asia-Pacific region continues to witness an imbalance, with women largely concentrated in lower growth sectors and lower paying roles. In fact, women are disproportionately represented in clerical support roles and significantly underrepresented in the tech industry. Moreover, the representation of women in senior management positions witnesses a steep decline from entry-level positions.
The Power of Diversity: A Catalyst for Success
The advantages of gender diversity extend far beyond corporations. Governments, too, reap benefits from having a diverse workforce. Studies conducted by McKinsey’s “Women Matter” series demonstrate that organizations with a higher representation of women in leadership positions engage in dynamic discussions, consider a broader range of factors, and challenge conventional thinking. This diversity of perspective ultimately leads to improved decision-making and more robust governance.
Unleashing Sri Lanka’s Potential for Growth
Sri Lanka has the potential to unlock significant economic growth through gender equality. According to MGI’s report, advancing gender equality can add $20 billion annually to the country’s GDP by 2025. However, realizing this potential requires collaborative efforts from the Government, companies, and society as a whole. Sri Lanka has already taken significant strides in promoting gender equality, becoming one of the first Asian nations to grant women voting rights and electing a female prime minister in 1960. The Government has also made commitments to address gender-based violence and support women-headed households. Initiatives are in place to empower rural women economically and encourage girls to pursue careers in technology.
Addressing the Challenges
Despite these advancements, Sri Lanka continues to face challenges in achieving gender equality. Women struggle to balance family responsibilities with paid work, encounter traditional attitudes, face limited access to financial resources, and lack the necessary skills for the modern labor market. Tackling these challenges requires cohesive efforts from the Government, private sector, and society.
Government Initiatives: Paving the Way for Balance
The Government plays a crucial role in promoting gender equality by prioritizing initiatives to enhance women’s participation in the workforce, particularly in senior positions. Currently, women account for only 34% of Sri Lanka’s labor force, lower than the Asia-Pacific average. To address this disparity, the Government has implemented a quota system, reserving 25% of positions in local public institutions for women. Additionally, the Government has sought input from senior female professionals in policy formulation, recognizing the vital role women play in the nation’s development.
Corporate Efforts: Leading by Example
Companies also bear responsibility for creating gender balance within their organizations. Sri Lanka has made progress compared to the Asia-Pacific region, with around a third of managerial positions or higher held by women. However, further equity improvements are necessary. Some companies, like MAS Intimates, have initiated programs to prepare women for leadership roles through training in technical capabilities, soft skills, and English proficiency. Access to digital technology is crucial for improving women’s prospects, and initiatives like SheTrades help women become more computer literate, enabling them to connect with global markets.
Societal Shift: Breaking Gender Barriers
Societal attitudes play a significant role in limiting women’s potential, necessitating investment in public awareness initiatives to reshape social norms and facilitate progress. Deeply entrenched beliefs, values, and attitudes based on tradition hinder women’s advancement in Sri Lankan society. While changing these mindsets may take time, it is essential for long-term change. Education and awareness campaigns can combat gender bias and encourage collaboration between schools and corporations to mentor and support women. Such efforts are pivotal in transforming the attitudes of policymakers, business leaders, and society as a whole, leading to a more inclusive and balanced economy.
Striving for #balanceforbetter
Achieving gender equity in Sri Lanka requires conscious efforts from all sectors. The challenge is further complicated by shifting demographics and increasing automation. However, by working together, the Government, companies, and society can make substantial progress. Stepping up efforts to create a more inclusive and balanced working world will not only benefit women but also lead to a thriving economy for all.
This article was originally published in DailyFT on March, 2019, and has been reprinted here with permission.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the significance of gender balance?
A: Gender balance is crucial for creating an equitable and inclusive working world.
Q: What are the benefits of gender diversity?
A: Gender diversity leads to improved business performance and more robust decision-making.
Q: What are the challenges faced by women in Sri Lanka?
A: Women in Sri Lanka face difficulties in balancing family responsibilities with paid work, encounter traditional attitudes, lack access to finance, and possess limited skills for the modern labor market.
Q: What initiatives has the Sri Lankan Government taken to promote gender equality?
A: The Sri Lankan Government has implemented a quota system, reserved positions for women in public institutions, and sought input from senior female professionals in policy formulation.
Q: How can companies contribute to gender equality?
A: Companies can promote gender balance by implementing internal training programs, improving access to digital technology, and providing opportunities for women to connect with global markets.
Essential Items Checklist for Women Travelers to Sri Lanka
- Valid passport and visa
- Suitable clothing to respect local customs and traditions
- Comfortable shoes for exploring diverse terrain
- Sunscreen and protective accessories for sun protection
- Insect repellent to guard against mosquito bites
- A travel adapter for powering electronic devices
- A lightweight, waterproof jacket for unexpected weather changes
- Necessary medication and a basic first aid kit
- A money belt or secure bag for carrying valuables
- A guidebook or map for navigating Sri Lanka’s attractions
- Gender balance is essential for creating a harmonious and inclusive working world.
- Achieving gender equality benefits organizations, governments, and society as a whole.
- Sri Lanka has the potential for significant economic growth through gender equity.
- The Government, companies, and society must collaborate to promote gender equality.
- Societal attitudes need to change to break barriers and facilitate women’s advancement.
As an experienced traveler and advocate for women’s rights, I can confidently say that embracing gender equality is not only a moral obligation but also a pathway to a thriving society. With concerted efforts from all stakeholders, Sri Lanka can build a future where women are empowered to achieve their full potential. Let us strive for a #balanceforbetter and create a world where everyone can thrive, regardless of gender. Remember, the journey towards equality is one we must embark on together.
DHPL Travels: Visit Sri Lanka Now