ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 2, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 40
Kandy Times  

Few women still in top management positions

Women in Sri Lanka are better educated and hold more jobs than ever before. Yet most women continue to suffer from occupational segregation in the workplace and rarely break through the so-called "glass ceiling" separating them from top-level jobs and professional positions, said Dinesh Weerakkody, Managing Director Cornucopia Lanka Ltd addressing the CIMA Employer forum in Kandy.

He said while substantial progress has been made in closing the gender gap in top managerial and professional jobs, for women in management it is still lonely at the top, the glass ceiling is still relatively intact. Whether in the private or public sectors, women still hold less than 10 percent of the top jobs in private and public corporations. Globally women represent more than 40 per cent of the world's labour force. Yet their share of management positions remains unacceptably low according to top research with just a tiny proportion succeeding in breaking through the glass ceiling to obtain top jobs.

Weerakkody observed that the argument that an insufficient number of qualified women exist to fill more top jobs is rapidly becoming outmoded. For example the numbers of women qualifying as Management Accountants has increased drastically over the last few years. While gender differences still exist in professional study choices, women worldwide are demonstrating their intellectual ability and are approaching the levels of men in educational attainment therefore the ratio has got change at some point. However women with family responsibilities, their upward movement may be hampered as they fight for time to devote to both career and family.

An important feature of professional and especially managerial work are the long working hours that seem to be required to gain recognition and eventual promotion. On the talent issue, Weerakkody says the ‘War for Talent’ is increasing. In the next 10 years, 35 million Europeans will retire and the US will need over 300,000 skilled workers by 2010 to simply maintain their current growth levels and moreover the so called Generation X baby boomers are taking early retirement, therefore ‘our companies’ will struggle to attract and retain the right people in the next few years, he said.

“Our Health Sector is today hit by the brain drain and the doctors want better facilities and higher salaries given immediately as an antidote to keep them from going away to other countries,” he added. This problem is not restricted to the health sector only, this scenario is prevalent in almost every sector and ‘we are happily pushing this problem under the carpet.’ Today many Sri Lankan Management Accountants are seeking opportunities in Australia, Africa, Middle East, UK and Canada. Sri Lankans are wanted for middle management positions in Finance, IT and Engineering in the West and the region.

Unlike in India the movement of good Sri Lankan talent could and will create a severe talent shortage, which could hurt ‘our’ economic potential. As to what should be done to address this problem, Werrakkody says like in India, one needs to start developing a growing cadre of managers, and establish management practices that enable a competitive effective workforce.

For a start the government should focus on wooing Lankan professionals working abroad by making it very attractive for them to come back. But the government’s effort will all depend on whether the country is backed up by a vibrant economy and also managed professionally.

“Our best bet would therefore be to woo back some of our top expatriates who have gone abroad to make their money but still feel the tug of their home country. We need to introduce attractive incentives that can entice them to return and also do something to retain our existing talent,” he suggested.

In addition to this according to Weerakkody the government should initiate a programme in consultation with the private sector to equip university graduates with the required skills set so that ‘we’ do not turn out just 3000 graduates yearly but 3000 employable people.

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