Neelika Malaviga, a university professor known for her work in researching COVID-19, is among the winners of this year’s ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2020, by Women in Management (WIM), in collaboration with Women in Work, a partnership between IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the government of Australia.
The awards – now in their tenth year – saw inspirational business and career women honored for the roles they have played in their industries, along with Sri Lankan corporates which have supported the growth and empowerment of women in the workplace.
This year’s ‘Top 50’ awards also saw a special appreciation to those who helped combat COVID-19 in 2020, specifically during the height of the pandemic. These special appreciation awards went to Sri Lanka Police, Sri Lanka Army, Public Health Officers and Medical Practitioners for their contribution as part of the COVID-19 taskforce in Sri Lanka.
Top awards for this year were presented to Chamila Bandara, Director/Chief Executive Officer of Mountain Hawk Express Licensee of Federal Express Corporation (Career Role Model of the Year), Selyna Peiris, Head of Business Development at Selyn (Emerging Business Leader of the Year), Shehara Jayawardena, Managing Director at McLarens Group (Best Corporate Leader of the Year), Shehara De Silva for Woman in Boards, and Hiran Cooray, Chairman of Jetwing Symphony PLC (Male Champion of Change).
Neelika Malaviga, a professor at University of Sri Jayawardhanapura and a visiting professor at the University of Oxford walked away with the award for Inspirational Women of the Year (COVID-19 category) for her contribution in COVID-19 research. Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Hemas Group, received the Trail Blazer award for her role as the first female Group CEO of a conglomerate in Sri Lanka. Lihini Fernando, attorney at law and founder of Velox Legal, who is also a member of the Municipal Council of Moratuwa, received the Inspirational Woman of the Year for her work in women in governance. Ramani Arsecularatne, Director of Ramani Arsecularatne International Academy (Inspirational Woman on Entrepreneurship) and Siddhika G Senaratne, Director General of Sri Lanka Standards Institution (Inspirational Woman of the Year in Career Leadership) were also among the awardees.
“Every year, for the last decade, I have been honoured to see women being appreciated for the diverse roles they play. This year’s awards – despite a global pandemic – is no exception.” said Dr. Sulochana Segera, Founder/Chairperson of Women in Management (WIM). “It’s not about the night of the award that matters. It’s about finding the hidden successes of women and bringing them out to appreciate their silent leadership, and also to encourage them to mentor more men and women towards greater gender equality.”
In a special message broadcast at the event, IFC’s Vice President for Asia and Pacific, Alfonso Garcia Mora paid tribute to this year’s award winners, describing them as “change makers.” “Women must be central to the thinking and action to build a sustainable resilient future out of this crisis,” he said.
Amanga Jewell, Deputy High Commissioner of Australia in a message broadcast at the event reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the women of Sri Lanka encouraging them to “participate in the economy and build a sustainable future for their country, particularly in the time of COVID-19.” She commended the winners, encouraging them to become “role models for change, encouraging other women to take risks, seek out opportunities and realize their potential.”
This year’s awards for Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur included Shyamalie Wijegunawardena, Co-Founder of Spring & Summer, Tania Polonnowita Wettimuny of IAS Holdings (PVT) Limited, Indeevari Yapa Abeywardena, Fashion Designer at House of Indi (PVT) Limited, and Thushari Koralage, Managing Director of Asian Grammar School & Giggles International Montessori.
The 2020 awards also witnessed a number of up-and-coming entrepreneurs being highlighted, including Lonali Rodrigo, Creative Director of House of Lonali Limited, Thayanaa Santhuru, Owner of The World Navigators (PVT) Limited, Delaxshana Manoharan, Owner of Shades IT Solutions, and Nayomi Handunnetti, Managing Director at Handun Villas and Restaurants.
In the career categories, women from across multiple sectors were recognized for their contributions towards Sri Lanka’s socio-economic development. Soundarie David Rodrigo, Founding Director of Soul Sound Academy Sri Lanka was recognized for Arts & Creative Industry category, while Gillian Edwards, Senior Vice President Consumer Banking at DFCC Bank, was honored for banking industry. Other career awards included Bimsani Jasinghaarachchi, Deputy Inspector General of Police for Welfare at Sri Lanka Police for defense force and civil security, Nilanthi de Silva, Dean and Professor of Parasitology at University of Kelaniya for education, Chandrika Perera, Executive Director at Abans PLC for financial services and Thilanka Jayatilake, Associate Director Human Resources at Fonterra Brands Lanka (PVT) Limited for human resources.
Kumudu Munasinghe, Head of Corporate Communications and Group Lead – Diversity and Inclusion from John Keells Holdings, Sharmila Arasaratnam, Director Marketing at Gamma Pizzakraft Lanka (PVT), were awarded for contributions in corporate communications and marketing, respectively. Namini Wijedasa, deputy editor investigations at Sunday Times, received the award for print media, while Indeewari Amuwatte, news anchor and broadcast journalist at TV Derana, received for electronic media. Shanuki D Alwis of Shhh Talk Show was awarded for digital media.
In addition, Ayesha Jinasena, Director of Public Prosecutions at Attorney General Office (legal), Sangeetha Navaratnam, Principal Architect at Mitra Innovation (science, technology & innovation industry), Dinesha Perera, the first Sri Lankan Hockey Umpire (sports), Shyamali Chitraleka Perera, surveyor general at Sri Lanka Survey Department (state & government sector), Amalika Mudunkotuwa Mendis, General Manager – Operations at Regency Teas (PVT) Limited (supply chain & logistics) and Nayantara Fonseka, Managing Director at Taru Villas Resorts (travel & tourism), received awards for their respective fields of work.
Career Achievement Awards went to Nilanthi Sivapragasam, Chief Financial Officer at Aitken Spence PLC, Inoka Perera, Business Editor at Silumina Newspaper, Dilani De Silva, Director Sales and General Manager at WSO2 Lanka (PVT) Limited, and Sifara Farook Ismail, Chief Finance Officer at Wayamba Printpack (PVT) Limited.
Additionally, Standard Chartered Bank was recognized in the Best Private Sector Organization category for its work promoting women in the workplace and Commercial Bank of Ceylon for best corporate social responsibility project on women empowerment by an organization. Nishirani Lanka Jayasuriya-Dissanayake, Chairperson of Indira Cancer Trust, received the award for Best NGO, INGO or Association on Women Empowerment for the remarkable service in helping cancer patients in Sri Lanka, while ‘Daragami Mama Jiwithe’ by Sirasa TV was accoladed for positive media campaign on the women empowerment.
Nandamalini Thanamanwila of Kiulara Samansiri Karunarathna Primary School (Best Social Worker of the Year), Aroshi Nananyakkara, Chair of Women in Boards (Change Makers for Women), and K. M. I Dilhani Gunarathna, H. M. Madushani Udeshika, H. K. Ishara Sewwandi, W. A. K. Mangalika, M. Erandi Fernando , K. T. T. Dilki Nadeesha, Pujani Dilki, M. D. Udayangani Prasadi , G. V. G Shamila Rasikani, S. H. M. Chathurika Harshani – a team of female rubber tired gantry crane operators at the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (Change Makers for Women) received ‘Top 50’ awards in recognition of their valuable services.
This year’s panel of judges, chaired by Shiromal Cooray, Chairman & Managing Director of Jetwing Travels, included H.E. David John Holly, High Commissioner of Australia to Sri Lanka, Nadija Tambiah, Executive Vice President of John Keells Group, Dr. Rohantha Athukorala, CEO of Clootrack Sri Lanka/Maldives & Pakistan, Sarah Twigg, Program Manager of Women in Work, Nisthar Casim, Editor of Daily Finance Times, Jayanthi Dharmasena, Managing Director of Hayleys Agriculture Holdings Ltd, Kumara Samarasinghe, Marketing Consultant, Thamari Senanyake, Associate Director Corporate of Regulatory Affairs & Consumer Care Fontera Brands Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Rohan Maskorala, CEO of Shippers Academy Colombo (Pvt) Ltd.
The ‘Top 50’ Professional and Career Women Awards 2020 were powered by Platinum Sponsor Dialog, along with Gold Sponsor Capitol TWINPEAKS, Silver Sponsors Lanka IOC, Coca-Cola and Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT). Access is also a sponsor of the event, while the Gifting Partner for the award was Fadna.