A Woman’s Role In The Corporate World

Sounds familliar? Yes, I am sure it is. This is so because of the increasing number of women getting into the corporate world and all we hear are the conflicts faced by them.

However, what most may have overlooked is the positive side of the issue. And there are many positives.

A woman is generally more patient than a man, more compassionate, has an acute sense of intuition, has a better understanding of handling difficult situations and is a team player among many other pluses, and this is not attributed being superior in anyway, rather, the way nature made her to be. Being a daughter, a wife, a mother and later in life perhaps a grandmother, requires many of these qualities in a woman. It could therefore, be an advantage in the corporate world.

My first job was, as a Marketing Executive at the Metropolitan Group. I was the first female on the field, and thus allowed me to set the trend for other females to enter an arena that was predominately monopolized by males up until then. This also required me to carefully manoeuvre certain situations as I had significant dealings with the government sector institutions.

There aren’t many women in the specialized field that I am in at present. And that places me in a very unique position. I head an organization named Asian Aviation Centre, at the Colombo Airport, Ratmalana, Sri Lanka. Our academy trains Pilots, Aircraft and Aerospace Engineers and Technicians. Asian Aviation Centre, or AAC as it is commonly known, is affiliated to the prestigious Kingston University of London and is the only academy that offers the full range of courses in aviation. I came into this field through my marriage. My husband happens to be the Chairman of the company. I am sure many people – inside the organization and outside would have been skeptical of a female entering a field such as this. I have not been in this position for long and I am sure I am yet to convince some, of the suitability of a female to head such an organization.

I am surrounded by mostly, ex Sri Lanka Air force personnel and also many civilians. The staff strength is around 50+. And Sri Lankan culture is such that, in most cases, being dictated to by a female may not be looked at very favourably by the male species. Invariably there are instances where tact, patience and a little bit of craftiness is required in handling same.

A woman must carve an identity of her own as much as she helps her spouse in forging an identity of his own. She must have the patience and the understanding that her aspirations may have to take a back seat sometimes. But persevere, and it will pay rich dividends in the longer term, and not only financially, but in family values as well.

A strong woman will always be able to strike a balance between the spouse, kids, the home, friends and office. In addition to all this, she must find time for herself and entertainment. She must know when to give space and make space for herself. Apart from being a team player, role playing is also a key. This enables her family to be strong. And a strong family always stays together and thrive. These same principles apply to the corporate world too.

Striking a balance; Running a business and maintaining a home is not something that is mutually exclusive. I can proudly say that I do it quite successfully. I do not have a maid at home. But, breakfast is made; my two and a half year old daughter is washed, readied, given breakfast and dropped at play school; my husband’s clothes are readied and he is sent off to his office; and then I find myself in office by 9.00 or 9.15. I pick up my daughter from play school and get her sent to the grandmother’s. I then join her later after office hours, where we may attend to any social activities that we have been invited to. We then pick up our sleeping daughter, and go home. I have never felt that these were tedious chores, but rather enjoy them as being part and parcel of one’s daily life. Not having a maid was a conscious decision made by me. I realized that it helps me to bond better with my daughter, which was vitally important.

In my case, my husband supports me in all my endeavours. And he also tolerates, quite amusingly, some considered to be quite unusual and unconventional. In the year 2002 I undertook a horse ride to Jaffna. The journey took five days and four nights. We rode through the Wanni and to Jaffna town. My husband gave me his unstinting support and backing. However, I am aware that many are not fortunate as me. However, such understanding comes from the attributes that mentioned earlier. And I, support him fully in all his endeavours.

Therefore, if one is adapt at role playing, is a team player, unselfish and does not take oneself too seriously, opting to be a woman in the corporate world is challenging and yet, a very fulfilling occupation after all.

Nihara Jayatilleke Rutnam | Sri Lanka

Managing Director of Asian Aviation Centre (AAC), the premier Aeronautical and Flying Academy in Sri Lanka, Nihara Jayatilleke Rutnam is a product of Musaues College, Colombo, with a Marketing background. She is a flyer, a keen horse rider and a dance enthusiast. Nihara was an executive producer of the film, ‘The Road from Elephant Pass’ directed by her husband. Being a vibrant and an active woman determined her to assist people and children in the war ravaged north. She rode on horseback from Vavuniya to Jaffna in the year 2002, creating a huge buzz amongst the national and international communities in Sri Lanka. Nihara has won many hearts through her smiles. Being an energetic and positive thinker, she encourages everyone to think positively about what life offers.