Leading with her compassionate heart and warming smile, Yasmine Svensson, the Creative Director of Creative Heritage Pvt. Ltd is a woman who believes that Sri Lanka still has a long way to come to fully relieve itself from the grasp of patriarchy. While actively working towards establishing a woman’s world in the corporate structure, this graceful lady is one that believes in empathy to guide herself towards being a strong leader for her team.
- Tell us about times when you were glad you were a woman in the corporate world?
I am always glad to be a woman in the corporate world. My ability to be compassionate and fair is something I value. In general, I believe that as women, we understand the frustration of structural inequality and unconscious bias as we have often experienced it ourselves and thus are able to operate from a place where we can see people’s strengths beyond what is typically apparent. I think this allows us to appreciate the power of diversity. Personally, this appreciation has allowed me to focus on creating a diverse team when it comes to my own firm. It has been and continues to be very important to me that we have team members of varied genders, ages and backgrounds; creating an environment where “fitting in” is about what you contribute in terms of work and effort and not because you all are alike and get along personally.
- Times aren’t easy and are made especially hard for women. What kept you going despite the difficulties and helped you come to this position allowing you to be a role model for other women?
Is there any other choice than to keep on going? Jokes aside, life isn’t fair in general. It doesn’t mean that we don’t work hard in levelling the playing field. However, it does mean that looking at what I can do from the position I find myself in is the main focus. How can I help change things for myself and others? What things can I do to further my dreams and passions? How can I contribute to my own life as well as work with others to contribute to their journey? Keeping a positive mindset amongst the setbacks and using them as a learning experience is something I think is important and have found to always be beneficial in the long run.
- What are some traits that you had to adapt to thrive as a female leader?
Believing in myself and being authentic to who I am. In my junior years, I think I tried hard to ‘fit in’, trying to be more masculine and tough than what I actually am. As I’ve gotten older I have learnt to appreciate my own qualities and to work with my own strengths rather than trying to adapt. This in turn resulted in my confidence in myself growing, and this confidence has allowed me to thrive.
- Are you content with the level of women that are springing into the role of leadership in their respective sectors? What unique advice would you like to give those who look forward to that?
It is great to see more women emerging but I think the real point we need to appreciate is to value diversity. To value different perspectives and to realise that success and leadership can look different to what we are used to. One most important piece of advice I would like to give is to be yourself and do it your way. Your unique perspective is what you bring to the table.
- Shaming and cultural norms are a few pointers on issues that effectively stagnate a woman’s chance to take risks and shine. If it was up to you to change this, where would you start?
Women supporting women is the first place to start. If we don’t support each other and don’t stand up for each other, it is highly unlikely anyone else will. Success in the corporate world often has to do with having a senior sponsor who takes you along as they succeed. Many women don’t have that. Being aware of this is important, as we consciously think about how we support more junior women in their careers and support their progress.
- Why are the women’s obligation clash more problematic than men’s obligation clash in a country that is on its way out of patriarchy?
Are we on our way out of patriarchy? I still think Sri Lanka has a way to go but the fact that we even highlight these issues is a great step. When it comes to understanding unconscious bias and the solutions we may have, this step is important. For example, we often use motherhood as an excuse as to why women drop out of the corporate world. Yet, in countries like Sweden where it is referred to as parenthood and something both mothers and fathers are equal parts of has resulted in both women and men taking equal time off to care for their children. The consequence is that there is no difference in hiring a mother versus a father and no reason women’s careers should be derailed because they become mothers.