Embracing Diversity with the Rise of Women Leadership – Dilrukshi Kurukulasuriya, Chief Human Resources Officer of DIMO

The HR Professional, Dilrukshi Kurukulasuriya, is an intellectually curious woman who thrives on challenges and, according to her mantra, “starts with the end in mind.” The diligent leader has nineteen years’ of experience in the local and multinational environment, over eleven years’ of senior management experience and has studied at the Sri Lanka Law College and is an Attorney-at-Law and indubitably an influential woman in her field. She is currently the Chief Human Resources Officer of the Sri Lankan owned conglomerate DIMO.

As she expressed her view on the evolution of the Human Resource function in a diversified company like DIMO, she stated that it was a journey similar to other progressive companies, although it was considered a “support function” in its early years. “With diversification, advancements in technology and handling complex workforce demographics forced HR to swift its role from being a support function to a strategic function. At DIMO, HR delivers overall organisational excellence by transforming organisation culture to deliver strategy by inspiring, aligning and delivering best talent.”

Addressing the issue of employee retention, Dilrukshi asserted that DIMO is working on the ‘Employees First’ policy, thus considering its employees as ‘total human beings with family and social obligations,’ resulting in an atmosphere that promotes the mental as well as physical well-being of their employees and their families.

“We believe that employees in good health are more productive, more engaged and motivated. Therefore, we believe in VOI (Value on Investment) and less on ROI (Return on Investment) considering the work-life balance of our people. Over the past years we have been able to capture many positive feedback from our year-on-year Employee Engagement Survey which shows increasing scores and comments of appreciation around this space. DIMO takes every step to be responsible towards its employees and care for them even beyond the accreditations obtained for social accountability and has instilled this as a core value. This also resulted in the company being recognised as the healthiest workplaces in Sri Lanka for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019 at the AIA Healthiest Workplace Summit.”

As we moved on to a vital topic, Dilrukshi believes that bridging the gender gap in the corporate industry is better for business. “50% of the Sri Lankan talent pool and 50% of our consumers are women and there is no way to attain sustainable development by ignoring this under represented and undervalued population.” She continued “as of DIMO, we are a company engaged in providing engineering solutions among other businesses and seen as a very masculine organisation to our potential employees and customers. But we have always been an equal opportunity organisation. We recognise merit in a person irrespective of the gender though still the majority of our workforce is male dominant.

“For years, we have been trying to increase the female population in our workforce because it makes business sense. We empower our female staff by providing opportunities to take up unconventional roles, providing career guidance and coaching and mentoring which has resulted in increasing women representation in our talent pool from 13% – 36%. Our Partnership with ‘She Works’ which is a ‘women in work’ programme led by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), resulted in an increase of women in male dominant roles from 21% in 2018 to 23% in 2019, increase in share of women in leadership roles by 5%, increase in employment satisfaction score from 3.89/5 to 4.11/5 within a year and zero reporting of sexual harassment cases.”

In addition, Dilrukshi discussed how DIMO has promoted diversity and inclusion where the initiatives of its people are based on meritocracy, enabling them to successfully execute non-discrimination and equal opportunities for employees of all demographics.

“In gender equality, we have always encouraged more women to join our workforce despite the industry we predominantly operate in being perceived as ‘male dominant’. We have extensive gender smart solutions and advocate for a respectful and dignified work environment conforming to our employee value proposition, making work enjoyable and rewarding. We have also encouraged women to join non-traditional jobs as Auto Technicians, Service Advisors and Engineers persistently. For almost thirty years, when we recruited students for our Auto Training School which we operate as a CSR project, we’ve enrolled at least one female student to join the batch. In addition, all women at DIMO are given equal opportunity to develop themselves and attain leadership positions within the organisation on equal grounds.”

As far as physical accessibility is concerned, DIMO has opened its doors to different employees in terms of the specific needs of employees, where they will feel welcome at their workplace. “At DIMO, we strongly believe that embracing diversity is not just including few or certain groups of people into the workforce but managing employee life cycles and making every employee feel significant at their place of work.”

On the topic of challenges which women face in the Corporate sector, Dilrukshi stated, “Networking is an important requirement in business to be successful as it provides scarce information, influences to open doors and creates opportunities globally and this is one of the biggest scarcities for women. Managing work life balance with corporates which expect women to be present anytime, anywhere is also one of the most significant challenges women face due to the different roles they play. Having more inclusive, gender smart work practices (for both men and women) in place like flexi time, parental leave etc. can reduce such challenges to a great extent.” 

On a further note, the HR professional said that women are not supported to maximise their potential, however, it depends on where these women are from, their industry, organisation, family, community etc. She also stated that the government together with the private sector can take procedures in providing opportunities and sometimes implement positive discrimination. “However our society is nurtured in a rigid way to view women as either ‘dependent caregivers’ or ‘supplementary earners’, hence enhancing skills and knowledge of this group is not considered priority. These perceptions among other reasons hinder women from reaching their fullest potential.”

When asked her opinion through her perception on how the rise of women leaders will help the profitability of the business, she responded that there will be greater innovation and openness and better ability to measure consumer interest and demand since 50% of the Sri Lankan consumer base is formed by women and increases business productivity.

In a discussion on how she perceives the representation of women in the Private and Public sector, she mentioned that there is only 8% representation of women in Boards in listed public companies in Sri Lanka, and that some companies have not understood that more purchase decisions are made by women today ,and that it is a hindrance not to have women in final decision-making positions to gain a competitive edge.

Dilrukshi stated that the Corporate sector needs to empower females in rural areas not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also to industries and the overall economy, given women’s large representation and high literacy rates in Sri Lanka.

“I believe it all starts with the right education, breaking of gender roles must begin here. A male child and a female child should be taught the same vocational studies and home science as well. Corporates can get involved in influencing changes in our education system by reviewing the curriculum and taking an active part in instilling progressive mindset among educators. Secondly, it is very important for businesses to look at the integration of women in their total value chain. What is the demography of our suppliers, employees and customers? How can we integrate women in these segments? What is the geographic diversity among these segments like? These are some of the questions corporate leaders should ask themselves. Corporates’ active participation in building technical and soft skills of undervalued women is also another key factor to achieve collective growth as a nation.”

In conclusion, she stated that her vision for women is to increase the visibility of women in decision-making positions in the corporate sphere and thus inspire and encourage other women to re-imagine their roles in making greater contributions to their organisations, communities and the nation as a whole.

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