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CA Sri Lanka’s Women Empowerment & Leadership Development Forum urges female Chartered Accountants to be visible

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CA Sri Lanka) recently launched the Women Empowerment & Leadership Development Forum to encourage female CA’s to step in to leadership roles and support their career progression.

The forum which attracted a full house of women Chartered Accountants, kicked off under the theme of "Be visible, it's a career not a job" at the Institute recently.

Speaking at the event, CA Sri Lanka President Mr. Jagath Perera pointed out that even though the Institute’s membership comprised of 32% females, not all were employed. "We need to make sure that there is a mechanism to absorb them back to the workforce. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 9 to 5 job, but there are options," he said.  "We need to bring them back, so that they will be actively and directly involved in the development of the country," he added.

Alternate Chairperson of the Women Empowerment and Leadership Development Committee Mrs. Anoji De Silva disclosed that even though 52.6% of the country’s population comprised of females, the labour force participation was only 36% making Sri Lanka one of the countries in the world with the lowest female workforce.  "If we want a productive and developed country for our children, we must increase the female working population in Sri Lanka," she said.

Alternate chairperson Anoji De Silva lighting the candle of CA Sri Lanka President Jagath Perera to ceremoniously launch the forum, while Vice President Manil Jayesinghe, Members of Council Heshana Kuruppu, Sanjaya Bandara and committee chairperson  Aruni Rajakarier looks on.

Sharing an interesting observation, Mrs. De Silva noted that the higher the education, the higher the active participation of women in the workforce. According to her, 80% of women with higher education enjoy a more productive career. She urged the Council of CA Sri Lanka therefore to look at this aspect, in an effort to ensure a more active women workforce.

"I believe we are the most fortunate professional services sector in the country due to the diverse skills we have received. This does not train us for a job – but teaches us to have a productive career whether we are at office or home. We are diverse in knowledge and we know to budget, time manage, write reports, present ourselves and talk to people, and this is all due to the training we have received," she said.

Speaking further, the alternate chairperson also said that a career is very personal and it can change based on the circumstances. "If there is a time you have to take time off, then you can do that and when you’re available once again, you can return to the productive workforce," she said.

She highlighted that all CA Sri Lanka members including females were trained to have a career and not just a job. Mrs. De Silva also urged the audience to spread this word among the other members as well as aspiring female CAs. "You must remind them that they are not training for a job, which is very restricted unlike a career which is far more productive," she added.

Chairperson of the Women Empowerment and Leadership Development Committee Mrs. Aruni Rajakarier shared her views on how the CA qualification was always the rock in her life and has helped her progress in her career as a financial professional who has also gone on to establish her very own consulting firm. “CA was my only professional qualification and it was the rock that I stood on, and it is a qualification that can take you anywhere,” she said.

Mrs. Rajakarier said that due to her active participation in various committees at the institute, it had also helped her gain confidence to go and speak at various forums which she had not even dreamed of in her early years.

The Women Empowerment and Leadership Development Committee will primarily focus on four initiatives namely; capacity building and enhanced visibility of female members and students; develop a Board Ready Women’s Directory consisting of senior CA female members who hold senior executive positions and are Board ready; develop a gender parity frame; and obtain the support of senior female members to mentor young females chartered accountants.

The CA Sri Lanka Women Empowerment and Leadership Development Committee –
Front row from left to right: Thamali Rodrigo, Portia Jayamaha, Aruni Rajakarier (Chairperson), Anoji De Silva (Alternate Chairperson), Chamila Cooray, Maryam Marikkar, Subashini Munasinghe, Pyumi Sumanasekara
Back row from left to right: Jani Ganeshan, Pranadhi Fernando, Fathima Shihara Jameel, Sambavi Kanagasabapathy, Nishani Perera, Vindya Cooray

Speaking at the forum, committee member Thamali Rodrigo disclosed that as per statistics, less than 2% CA Sri Lanka female members serve in Board positions. Therefore, she noted that the directory will be an important initiative as it will provide visibility to the female members of CA Sri Lanka and will help them enjoy enhanced professional success at a Board level.

Female members of CA Sri Lanka at the Women Empowerment and Leadership Development forum.

The participants who attended the Women Empowerment and Leadership Development Forum also involved themselves in an activity where several work related scenarios were deliberated using fictional female characters which gave the participants an opportunity to draw on their personal experiences and come up with strategies to keep the women engaged in a productive career.

A section of the audience comprising of female Chartered Accountants of CA Sri Lanka