Women being reluctant to help other women in the workplace is the primary reason why Sri Lanka has been able to only produce a handful of female corporate leaders over the past few years, the Chairperson of Women In Management (WIM) Dr. Sulochana Sigera lamented last week.
While emphasizing on the need for moulding solid role models that the next generation of women could look up to, she said that women especially in higher positions have a tendency not to help and mentor younger women in the same work place to climb the ladder out of the fear for their own jobs, positions and authority.
“Women have to help other women. Only when that is happening can we urge the other gender to acknowledge our rights and capabilities and demand to be treated duly and accordingly,” said Dr. Sigera.
“Recently I was talking to some MBA students and when asked who they consider a strong female role model, they all said the one and same name; simply because they did not know any other female influencers,” she said.
She then went on to say that women, in most cases, were ‘silent achievers’ and this was the reason why their achievements are not as highlighted or barley even spoken about.
She believes that the country, except in the informal sector, provides equal opportunities for men and women to reach the pinnacle in any given area. That said, she believed that women don’t use their opportunities more often than not because they are reluctant to step out of their ‘comfort zone’ and ‘go that extra mile’.
An avid advocate for equal opportunities in the workplace for women, Dr. Sigera said that she has seen on so many instances women who even reach the pinnacle in their respective disciplines or workplaces using their gender as an ‘excuse’ to not deliver what is expected of them.
“Women have many problems and the solutions for these are also with them. On the one hand, women settle too easily. They don’t like to break away from their comfort zones. Most women just find a job and so as long as they get a salary at the end of the day, they are happy. They don’t strive to reach the next level. This is a sad trend that can be seen commonly among working women,” she commented.
According to her, women are hardwired to achieve slowly and celebrate discreetly. She declared that it was time this was changed because younger generations are dynamic and if they are exposed to the right role models who are willing to share their stories and mentor these youngsters, the country can take the burden of developing Sri Lanka economically off men’s shoulders at least somewhat.
Commenting about the women’s representation in the political sphere, Dr. Sigera said that women not supporting women enough has been a significant challenge in forging and bringing to the fore better female representatives.
She did believe a change of the quality of female representation can in fact reflect positively on the ground-level efforts they are taking to make conditions better conducive for working women. In this regard, she said that WIM was passionate about building the necessary leadership skills and thereby the enthusiasm among women to take leadership roles in the society.
“Before lobbying with men, women have a lot to do for their own kind,” Dr. Sigera reiterated.
She said that what inspired her to start WIM seven years ago was seeing, in the capacity of an HR executive, talented women not pushing themselves to their fullest potential let alone beyond their comfort zones in the workplace.
She was confident that through the work that WIM does, more women will realize their worth and take up more leadership roles in future because according to her women are inherently better decision makers. She said if the said paradigm shift occurs with more women assuming the role of the decision maker in organizations, the economy and the country will also naturally and significantly benefit from it.
Dr. Sulochana Sigera won the Global CSR Leadership Award in Mumbai recently for her work in the area of women empowerment. Through her organization Women In Management which will be completing seven years this year, Dr. Sigera has reached out so far to over 10,000 rural women and 5000 in the corporate sector.
Her work involves recognizing and nurturing women entrepreneurs and influencers to make qualitative and quantitative changes in women’s contribution to the country’s labour force.