Gender Biases and Stereotypes- Sharmila Arasaratnam
Sharmila Arasaratnam, Director Marketing of Gamma Pizzakraft is an individual that displays a driven, focused and fun personality with an undying passion for travel and exploration.
When she is not in office, you’ll find her appreciating picturesque landscapes and tasting authentic food from lands far and near. According to her travel experiences, mingling with different cultures from all over the world is extremely rewarding as it broadens her understanding of people – the most valuable asset to any organization.
Can you recall your entry into the corporate world?
It was in 1998 just after I finished my London A/L’s at Ladies College. I joined the HSBC Credit Card Centre as a banking assistant and climbed my way up the ladder slowly but surely. I covered several areas such as card centre, call centre, customer service, branches and ended up in the Marketing department as a Business Development Manager. I was with HSBC for 11 years. In 2009, I joined Nations Trust Bank as a Senior Manager and handled the Marketing for American Express Cards. It was in May 2013 that I joined Gamma Pizzakraft as Director – Marketing.
How has your overall experience in the corporate world been?
It has been good thus far. I have worked in 3 organizations and all 3 have been very different in terms of organization culture. Also, I was a banker for 15 years and then switched to Food & Beverage, so while I did encounter a slight culture shock, I was able to adapt quite efficiently.
Tell us about your current place of employment, Gamma Pizzakraft
Gamma Pizzakraft is a limited liability company incorporated in Sri Lanka and is an approved entity of the Board of Investments (BOI) of Sri Lanka. We are currently the only franchisee for Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in Sri Lanka. We have 64 Pizza Huts across the country and 3 Taco Bells mainly located in Colombo.
Elaborate on your current job role
As a part of the Executive Committee at Gamma Pizzakraft, I am involved in the Strategic decision making process of the organization. We have a culture of collective decision making and rarely work in isolation and silos. Cross functional teams and committees are formed to evaluate projects and ways of improving business functions. Above all else, these duties are conducted with best practices from group marketing initiatives across the world. A few of the Marketing functions for Pizza Hut and Taco bell in Sri Lanka includes; ensuring sales targets are met and profitability is achieved, new product development, managing all traditional media, social media and the digital space, profiling customer segments and customizing offers and products. Of course, the list goes on as there is so much more to mention!
What is your view on gender biases and stereotypes?
It certainly exists and the solution to an inherent problem begins by first accepting that the problem exists. Gender balance is essential for economies and thriving communities. However, I consider myself lucky since Gamma Pizzakraft is all about equal opportunities in employment and career progression for all employees irrespective of gender. All employees are treated equally and fairly.
Is there any way that these elements can be changed in Sri Lanka?
Starting from the hiring process, gender neutral recruitment processes should be standard. Transparency and open communication among employees is also important in order to foster a clear plan on how to close the gap in areas such as workforce or pay inequalities. Women holding senior roles should be supported, while encouraging junior female staff to progress with their careers. In terms of organizational culture, it is vital that meritocracy is established; great ideas come from all levels, genders, races and all voices are welcome and respected around the table. Finally, in order to ensure that these policies are not breached, a clear, unbiased discrimination policy that ensures employees have a proper way to comment or report on inappropriate treatment in the workplace should be established.
What words of advice do you have for the next generation of women who seek to enter the corporate world?
Think about building your brand and creating a strong product. Think of yourself as a product that you are developing and marketing. Acquire as much knowledge as possible which will result in making your product, which is you, more valuable. Find a company where you’re comfortable and where there is a cultural fit. Later in your career, when you have the opportunity to change or build a culture, build one that welcomes everyone, regardless. Find female mentors. Many women are willing to help others around them, so learn and avoid the mistakes they’ve made; never be afraid to ask. Seek feedback for every significant task you’re assigned and every project you’re on. If you have the courage to consistently seek feedback, and more importantly learn from it, it will dramatically increase the trajectory of your career.