Sri Lanka’s MAS Holdings in drive to boost women in top management

ECONOMYNEXT – MAS Holdings, one of Sri Lanka’s largest apparel producers, is on a drive to bring more women into upper management, an official said.

"What we’re trying to do now at MAS is to get more women into the leadership level ," MAS FemTech Head Gayani Abeysinghe said.

MAS has 98,000 employees globally, of whom 70 percent are women, Abeysinghe said, speaking at a forum organized by Colombo-based Institute of Policy Studies.

She said the group, which is privately owned, is working to have more women sitting on its Board.

According to the MAS Holdings’ website, its 7-member board has one woman member: South Africa’s Gail Klintworth.

Its investment arm, MAS Capital, has 10 members, none of whom are women.

Sri Lanka has poor women representation at management levels, studies showed.

According to a joint study done by the Colombo Stock Exchange and the International Finance Corporation in 2018, only 8.2 percent of board members on listed companies are women.

Women filled only 27.6 percent of management positions in 2017 according to International Labour Organization statistics.

Abeysinghe said MAS Holdings has been successful in making women into managers.





"We have success stories of women who joined at factories in villages and worked themselves up to be at managerial roles," she said.

However, the firm has not disclosed how many of its managers are women.

Abeysinghe said the firm is trying to understand work-life integration for women.

Only 35 percent of working age women take part in Sri Lanka’s labour force, due to family commitments, especially after childbirth, and a poorly managed public transport system which facilitates rampant sexual harassment.

Women were also paid 64 cents to each rupee a man earns for similar work in 2018, according to the Gender Gap Report 2018

"A lot of MAS work right now is how to help women entering into the work force," Abeysinghe said.

MAS offers transport and meals for its employees and is providing childcare facilities in some of its factories.

In East Asia, especially in countries like Vietnam, the government has light taxation on motorcycles, which are owned not just by women factory workers but also executives.

Sri Lanka has high taxation on motorcycles and the Central Bank which prints money, has put credit restrictions on vehicle imports to cover up its own policy errors in monetary dominance of fiscal policy.

MAS has operations in North America, Europe and Asia, with an annual revenue of around 1.8 billion US dollars.

It supplies products to global brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Marks & Spencer, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Speedo and Nike. (Colombo/Mar30/2019-SB)

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