On the 18th of January, Fortude launched the ‘I AM DIVERSITY’ initiative, as part of its corporate ethos to encourage a diverse and inclusive workplace for all employees irrespective of age, gender, race, color, orientation and disability.
The session began with a speech by Carmen Niethammer, Women in Work, Program Manager from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an organization that is part of the World Bank Group. Carmen’s address illustrated interesting statistics from research carried out by the IFC, stating that Sri Lanka has a female board representation of 8.2% on Colombo Stock Exchange-listed companies, which compares well with more developed Asian economies such as Japan at 3.5% and South Korea at 4.1%. Subsequently, she mentioned that there is significant correlation between financial performance and greater board representation by women.
Speaking at the launch, Arjuna Sirinanda, Managing Director and CEO, Fortude, highlighted that he has always been a strong supporter of encouraging inclusivity, having grown up in various cultures from across Asia to the West. He stressed on the importance of leadership driving the initiative, and the steps Fortude has taken and will take in order to be an equal opportunity employer.
The session was followed by a panel discussion with three guest panelists; industry experts in disciplines across media, legal and women at work.
On the panel was Danu Innasithamby, Global Peace Ambassador for the World Peace and Diplomacy Organization. He discussed social issues of diversity and inclusion and brought forward a few impact stories from his childhood. He concluded on a positive note with how millennials are giving more thought to diversity and acceptance, together with being bold about expressing who they are.
Nirusha Ranjitkumar Ratnatunga, a partner at Nithya Partners, specializing in legislature related to Capital Markets, Foreign Investment, Employment Law and Due Diligence, was also part of the panel. She spoke on the necessity for a company to have a diversity and inclusion council which has a clear objective, plan and proper mechanisms to measure and report the progress. Nirusha went on to further explain that whilst the composition of diversity includes more than gender diversity, it was encouraging to see that some employers in the country were looking at taking small steps to encourage greater female participation such as setting up creche operations in-house.
Carmen also joined in on the panel discussion, urging companies to pursue diversity and inclusion more strategically and in line with their business drivers; and in addition to a focus on the millennial market segment – also focus on the market of the elder population – a number that is increasing due to the ageing population in Sri Lanka. She cited IFC’s recent Sri Lanka Tackling Childcare report and suggested that IT companies further explore the business case for employer-supported childcare in the country to encourage parents (particularly mothers) to join and stay in the workforce.
After the panel discussion, five Fortudites pledged to embrace diversity and inclusion in the workplace, reflected by the launch of the ‘I AM DIVERSITY’ logo – a hand consisting of the five fingers that are diverse and work in unison towards one common goal. This was followed by the official digital launch of the initiative – which prompted a QR code on the screen, for employees to digitally pledge their support.
The event milestone is part of Fortude’s journey to establishing an impactful Diversity and Inclusion Council, further enabling diversity and inclusion across our global presence in the US, UK, Australia and Sri Lanka.