News Item | 31-08-2021 | 08:05
Earlier this month, Ambassador Gongripp was invited to speak at the graduation of the Leo Leadership Development Program at the Sri Lankan Marketing Institute (SLIM). Women’s participation in the workforce, work-life balance, but perfect, unsustainable goals and leadership to be good is what she has to say here.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests, Good evening!
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak at this online graduation on a regular basis at the ‘Leo Leadership Development Program’ at the Sri Lankan Institute of Marketing (SLIM).
Although I was asked to speak about my journey as an ambassador on the topic of “Strength to Be the Next Leader in Your Workplace,” I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about sustainability.
Looking back on my career, I realize that in many ways I have been privileged. I am sure my journey is less than many of you and will be in the future. But let me be clear. The Netherlands is not perfect in terms of women’s participation and representation in the workforce at the highest levels of government.
According to the World Bank, women’s participation in the labor force in Sri Lanka is declining slightly. In 2019, it was 34 percent. In the Netherlands it was 59 percent. So we have a place to improve. But more important than knowing these numbers is to understand why the numbers are so low or not, and they should be. Women still face other challenges when compared to men.
Our journey does not begin with entering the marketplace. Not even with school. It starts with our upbringing; What is expected of us when we are little girls. What roles in the family have we had since childhood? Is there access to good education and are we motivated to develop ourselves, to develop our talents? And do we work in a comfortable environment when we enter the labor market? And when we decide to have children, do we have supportive husbands and do we get proper child care? These questions apply to both men and women, but are less decisive and reluctant.
I realize I had an easy start. The biggest challenge in my career is combining career search and motherhood. Therefore, the balance of work life, Tilanka mentioned. I find a new job and work until 2:00 in the morning and I remember these difficult days and nights when my little boy cried at 5:00 in the morning. Long days, very short nights. Looking back, I do not even understand how I managed. Probably because I was so motivated and loved my work.
If you let me give you some advice, I definitely advise you not to do it. Because I think it is important for me to work hard. And ladies, don’t try to be perfect! Studies show that women are more likely than men to take the next step. And unfortunately, sometimes they have to be considered and considered. And to be honest, I still try to be perfect, knowing that I am perfect.
For many women, the reality is that our personal and professional journeys can sometimes be interconnected, sometimes conflicting, or take us in different directions. I believe this is true regardless of cultural background, profession or level of maturity. So it is important to remember that we cannot always please everyone, and that is fine.
It helps a lot to be very clear because I am not perfect. There are some things that I am good at, that I know, but there are many things that I do not know, and I have many shortcomings. Remember this applies to everyone. Your strength is a slippery slope. Don’t hide it, accept it and be open about it. For example, I am a very zealous and open person, who as a manager helps me to encourage people to do their job and grow. Conversely I may be overwhelmed, some people don’t share their thoughts, and worse, they don’t participate anymore. I’m creative, and I hate planning. Know your strengths and be proud of them, use them. But also be aware of the reversal, because your understanding can help you to behave differently in certain situations. It will help you to ask others for help. It helps you see things from a different perspective and makes you a better person and leader.
This means you have to allow yourself to make mistakes. In my first few months, I realized that this was easier said than done in the Sri Lankan context. I remember all the staff meetings I started with the words, My colleagues, I was wrong. He was very quiet and many of SL’s colleagues clearly felt uneasy. But it was a relief to me. I understood why I had made the decision and why – now with the knowledge – it was a wrong decision.
I embraced it without knowing it and I learned that my confidence really depends on learning from my successes and mistakes. I have learned that my strength comes from my vulnerability and openness to say I don’t know. Or: I need help!
I know that this takes a lot of self-confidence. But they create a more relaxed work environment, with more confidence and this encourages creativity in the team.
I’m back to you – I’m sure there have been and will be some amazing moments – why do I do this, trying to integrate everything, why do I want to be a responsible leader?
The answer is very simple, because we women need it. Your participation is important. Tilanka has already mentioned this.
A.D. In 2019, most in our parliament voted for a quota for business women. The law stipulates that 30 percent of the board of directors of a company currently listed by the public must be women. Personally, I was happy with the result. There was a lot of discussion on this topic, which is understandable; Why Approve Women Legally? There are many answers to this question, but I will give you a quick answer because it has been found to be very important: We have tried many other steps in the past, all based on good intentions and voluntary principles. But as long as the board of directors is mostly male. And people generally prefer to work with people who have similar traits. It means that men prefer men. This will not change unless there are clear rules. Tilanka cites this unfamiliar bias.
This measure was important only because women were considered appropriate in the board. It’s not just that women need to make a living and work on their professional development. We have all committed ourselves to sustainable development goals, as this includes creating equal opportunities for all genders and creating suitable employment opportunities for all. It is also important because it is simply a matter of business. Women contribute to the economy and we cannot leave half of the population.
Although I do not judge men – women have added value to a country’s sustainable economic development. We have many examples today. Studies show that women – in addition to men – have better business performance in management. More diverse management improves performance and makes it easier to attract talent. More than 54 percent of the 13,000 companies’ gender mainstreaming has led to improvements in innovation, innovation and openness within the company. These findings, previously confirmed by McKinsey’s study, show that companies with women on the board lead to higher return on investment, lower debt to equity rates, and higher average net income growth.
I know that SLIM has many broadcast programs. Marketing knowledge is essential to sustainability and inclusion. And I want to take this opportunity to emphasize its importance. I have already mentioned the goals of sustainable development. In fact, I make a point to mention them in every talk I give.
Dr. Fernando mentions appreciation for science, triple-minded thinking, and 21 emergencies and disruptionsSt Century Leadership. I can’t agree more. We need to redefine the concept of leadership and development, or economic growth.
As leaders, you have a responsibility to contribute to the achievement of these goals by knowing how your company or organization can minimize negative environmental impacts or make a positive contribution. How your company or organization takes care of its employees and contributes to their safety.
In the short term, this will take more time, energy, and more time, but it will eventually pay off. A happy workforce is more productive, creative and committed. Saving energy and water reduces costs. Also, and here is where the real long-term vision and marketing comes from, you become a reliable partner for Western companies and brands (Global MNC). Western governments and civil society are being pressured to make their value chain more sustainable and to take responsible business practices. To find out where they came from and under what circumstances. If Sri Lankan companies and companies have demonstrated their commitment to manufacturing, manufacturing, doing business up to SDG standards and adhering to these responsible practices, then they can be a viable choice for Dutch and other Western business partners and investors. Sustainability and inclusion should be an integral part of your business and marketing.
As you can see, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is something I hear a lot, and I am happy to have received new courses on the SLIM Women’s Chapter and the Knowledge to Solve Leadership Skills and Sustainable Problems.
So in conclusion, I hope that following this course will set an example for your colleagues – both men and women around you – and for Sri Lankan society in general. And last but not least, to see Sri Lanka as a professional, diverse, sustainable choice.
I wish you every success in following this course and ask you to apply what you have learned, share your knowledge and keep looking for more.
In conclusion, I will leave you with the words of Maya Angelo, which I believe are suitable for the student to start his new lesson – do all that he says, “As long as you know better, when you know better, do better.”
And I add – never try to be perfect.