R I L Property
Q: How do you view the roles that women in leadership play?
A: The typical mindset in society these days is that women are the weaker sex. This has been the type of thinking that has evolved over time. It continues to exist however, and more so in many Asian countries where such thinking is more dominant in comparison to the attitudes in Western countries.
Most females are well-balanced, quick-witted and able to multitask. And above all, they possess and demonstrate empathy. I believe that women leaders are much stronger and more resilient simply because of these factors. Therefore, women tend to make more definitive choices because they process information both rationally and emotionally.
Q: How about your own company?
A: The board representation at R I L Property has a majority of women directors. Out of the eight board seats, five are occupied by women directors. The diversity of knowledge that they bring to the table spans from finance, legal and entrepreneurship spheres to management acumen.
Women bring their life principles and experiences into play, to look at every situation from all angles for morally better solutions. This is what I believe women bring into the corporate world.
Q: What are your thoughts on women’s representation in the world of business today?
A: A few years ago, I remember there was a special focus whereby many organisations were working to establish momentum for corporates to introduce women directors onto their boards. To achieve this end, these corporates set aside several seats on their boards specifically for women.
At that time, I asked the question as to why this was done specifically for women – especially because there aren’t instances where we allocate seats for men. I think women deserve the business world to offer them a seat at the table other than by way of making an exception.
Organisations should recruit by assessing the respective skills and qualifications that individuals have to offer, and in terms of their genders. In my view, women can contribute in the same way that men can – whatever the industry or sector may be. The world should not marginalise people in general and label sectors as being gender specific – instead, men and women should be placed on an equal footing.
False gender roles or stereotypes have been attributed to several professions in Sri Lankan culture. R I L – being a company that provides ‘Grade A’ office spaces –focusses on adopting the latest technology. Therefore, we have a sizable technical team. I always try to encourage female applicants whenever we have training or employment opportunities. This is one way of dispelling the taboos surrounding certain professions.
Another factor that impacts women is the need for them to focus on their children. Competing demands on their time compels many women to prioritise this resource, leading them to move out of the working environment altogether or curtail their advancement in the corporate world.
The overall female representation at R I L is only a third of the workforce. However, we have a majority representation of women on our senior management team.
Q: In your view, how could women work to overcome the challenges that they face in the workplace?
A: Sometimes, the culture of an organisation has a significant bearing on its employees – making it very challenging for women to work there. I’ve seen that most women who perform well at work are more likely to be subjected to demotivation by their colleagues. Or it may be the case that social stigmas as regards gender stereotypes make it difficult for women to advance as rapidly as men seem to do.
With a finance background, my transition into the real estate sector was not an easy task. I didn’t know any of the jargon used by the sector’s specialists and was often the only female representative at the senior management level in a room full of men. Even though I didn’t always understand what was being said, I kept learning, and putting in the time and effort required to educate myself.
I believe that you need to be heard – and to do that, there is no other option than to speak up. As it is with any challenge, one needs to address the issue head-on without taking the easy way out.
“The world should not marginalise people in general and label sectors as being gender specific – instead, men and women should be placed on an equal footing