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Wednesday February 1st, 2023

99X: Championing Women in Tech

L to R- Shehani Seneviratne Chief Operating Officer at 99x Samra Aman Associate Manager – Delivery at 99x

Among the Best Workplaces for Women in Sri Lanka, 99x is empowering women to build thriving careers in tech with initiatives that extend beyond the company to the broader economy.

Shehani Seneviratne, Chief Operating Officer at 99x, and Samra Aman, Associate Manager – Delivery, share their insights into building a culture of diversity, equality and inclusion, empowering women within and outside the company, and the factors that make 99x one of the best workplaces for women in Sri Lanka.

What makes 99x one of the top Best Workplaces for Women in Sri Lanka?

As an equal opportunity employer, 99x treats everyone equally, supporting our people throughout their journeys at 99x. We encourage all our people, irrespective of gender, race or religion, to avail themselves of the opportunities and support we provide to challenge themselves and take the initiative to carve out fruitful careers for themselves and grow as leaders. We have built a culture of meritocracy that encourages collaboration, communication and innovation bolstered by transparent processes for performance evaluation, increments, rewards and promotions. Those are some of the reasons why 99x is a great place to work for women. Women also have challenges unique to them that we are striving to address.

We have anti-harassment policies and a forum where women can come together to discuss issues that matter to them and to encourage, mentor and support one another. However, this is not to say that we have a culture that creates more opportunities for men or women. We are committed to creating equal opportunities for all our people to excel and take pride in the many women who have grabbed those opportunities to thrive and lead in the workplace.

So why is an inclusive workplace important to your company?

A truly diverse and inclusive workforce brings diverse perspectives that give depth to creativity, decision-making and innovation and help the company achieve its objectives. Our DE&I focus is helping us drive our expansion in the European market, where consumers and businesses care deeply about gender balance, equal opportunities and inclusion, values that define 99x as a successful and innovative tech company.

When it comes to building great products, does gender balance in the workplace matter?

Not really, but gender diversity has emerged as an essential factor because it helps shape different ideas and perspectives, enabling creative thinking that can help you transform your product ideas into reality.

If you look at the core product engineering practice, there is a common misconception that product engineering teams are mostly male-centric, which is not the case at 99x. Here you will find females in almost all our product development tracks. Female project leaders are performing equally well as their male counterparts. What matters most in product engineering is not gender but experience and soft skills to deliver results on time and exceed quality expectations. However, women have unique leadership attributes and strengths, bringing an additional layer of diligence and empathy, exuding more loyalty and productivity, and are critical ingredients to building relationships based on trust and growing the business in a highly competitive industry.

How do you build acceptance for a DE&I culture across the organization?

It is leading by example because if you look at our management, there is a commitment to fostering this inclusive culture, identifying and bridging gaps. Aligning people to a common culture and shared vision begins at recruitment, where we try to hire employees whose values resonate with ours. We are committed to achieving gender parity in an industry still struggling to increase the female ratio. Women account for 26% of the total workforce at 99x, and 30% of them are holding leadership positions.

How is 99x helping women to be a large part of shaping the economy of this country?

99x is committed to collaborating with the industry and other stakeholders to expand and deepen the talent pool and nurture the future leaders of the tech industry in an environment of diversity, equality and inclusion. Shehani is a Board Member of SLASSCOM, the industry association for the IT/BPM industry, giving 99x an opportunity to make a difference. SLASSCOM introduced the Women Technopreneur Forum two years ago to encourage women to build startups and support women-led startups to reach the next stage of growth. The WTech forum supports this initiative with financing, mentoring, skills development and more. We are also helping to widen the female talent pool and improve female representation in the tech industry by inspiring young girls to consider a career in IT. We are working with schools and universities to challenge mindsets, and 99x’s women conduct knowledge-sharing and mentoring sessions with many undergraduates from across the country each year to inspire them