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Tuesday May 28th, 2024

How John Keells Properties is Championing Women’s Empowerment

Construction and real estate have long been male-dominated industries, but that is changing. Women have established themselves as successful real estate agents, developers, investors, and professionals in related fields such as engineering, architecture, and urban planning. Women like Imasha De Silva, Senior Manager – Human Resources at John Keells Properties (JKP), contribute to fostering inclusive work environments where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and succeed. In this interview, Imasha shares more insights into her career and role as a facilitator.

What is your outlook for the real estate industry and how women are being treated?

The Sri Lankan real estate industry has been experiencing remarkable growth in recent years and the demand for residential, commercial, and industrial properties has been driven by factors such as urbanization, infrastructure development, tourism and foreign investment. 

Regarding the role of women in the Sri Lankan real estate industry, there have been strides towards greater gender equality and inclusion, however, disparities may still exist and there may be instances where they face challenges such as discrimination and cultural norms that dictate traditional gender roles. Despite these challenges, there are examples of women succeeding and making significant contributions to the real estate sector in Sri Lanka. 

How do you see your role as a facilitator of women’s empowerment that drives success for the company?

I’m proud to champion women’s empowerment through every aspect of our people operations. Our recruitment and talent management practices actively challenge gender stereotypes by prioritizing individual competence over gender, ensuring equal opportunities for everyone.

We aim to empower and encourage women and their participation in all aspects of the industry, from leadership and decision-making roles to technical and specialized positions. When women see other women succeeding and thriving in the organization, it serves as a powerful inspiration and motivation for future generations. Notably, our architectural team boasts an impressive 80% female representation, showcasing a departure from the industry’s historical norms. In addition, many of our key departments including marketing, sales, procurement, and mall operations are headed by women.

We ensure our performance management practices, compensation, and benefits emphasize fairness and objectivity, fostering a culture of trust and respect that values the contributions of every team member equally. By prioritizing employee engagement, we have significantly improved workplace culture and morale, which are crucial factors in attracting and retaining talented women in the workforce.

Compliance with laws and company policies is also paramount in creating a safe and inclusive workplace. This safeguards a harassment-free environment, communicating employee rights and providing robust support resources.

Through these measures, we build a workplace where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.

How does John Keells Properties drive women’s empowerment, and what initiatives are in place to support this?

John Keells Properties has defied stereotypes by cultivating a diverse and talented workforce. At the heart of JKP’s approach are robust policies and processes established at the Group level to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunity. Drawing insights from global progress in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), the company actively recruits and retains talent regardless of factors such as ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical ability. Leadership commitment drives the implementation of DE&I initiatives aimed at addressing unconscious bias, providing employer-supported childcare, and destigmatizing menstruation through initiatives such as the SanNap programme, which provides sanitary napkins free of charge to our female staff.

Furthermore, we have partnered with organizations providing creche facilities for staff, and have established support networks like the “Parents Connect” resource group to cater to the needs of working parents. Flexible and remote working options are available for females with young children demonstrating JKP’s proactive approach to accommodating diverse needs. We have also partnered with Child Adolescent and Family Services (CAFS) to provide employer-supported counselling to our staff. Moreover, the John Keells Group Internal Job Posting Programme ensures equitable and unbiased internal recruitment, fostering a culture of inclusivity and opportunity within the organization.

Drawing from your example, can you share specific examples of how fostering leadership development and career advancement opportunities for women lead to better outcomes for the company?

A fundamental driver of our Group’s culture, which fosters women’s development, is our leadership team’s deep understanding of the distinct challenges women face across various industries and life stages.

Starting as an Executive attached to the Leisure sector in the year 2018, I have been privileged to have had the opportunity by mid-2021 to head the human resources function attached to John Keells Properties. During my tenure, I’ve had the opportunity to work across diverse business sectors and to be mentored and guided by the leaders in the Group. Their support and encouragement have been instrumental in my development, enabling me to take on new challenges, expand my skills, and achieve my career goals. 

The foundation of my enthusiasm within the Group lies in the collaborative work environment, where mutual support fosters the achievement of collective goals. Additionally, the work culture promotes flexibility, empowering us to prioritize both professional delivery and personal well-being, thus maintaining a healthy work-life balance, a value I deeply appreciate, which fuels my enduring passion. I believe that the freedom, support systems, frameworks, and practices established across the Group are instrumental in empowering women to excel and thrive.